Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Radio, Radio Pt. 2

Since I wrote the first part of this thought a few weeks ago, I found Lady Ti Die's blog. Lady Ti Die was the morning jock, who, along with Perry Persoff, the guy who did all the production work, made me feel pretty welcome at K-OTTER. Though the K-OTTER jocks loved their music, most were older than me by some margin, and could be a bit snobbish in what they liked. They warmed to me the more I hung around, and by the end of the 8 months I was there most became friendly. The depth of their musical knowledge was a bit intimidating, too.

Lady Ti Die graciously responded to my email, and is still up in the SLO area. I haven't tried to contact Perry, but it seems like he's doing well on WUMB in Boston, a station that seems similar to K-OTTER.

So I think I left off my thoughts at UCLA. My RA (possibly the smartest person that I've ever met-he's a professor now at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology) at the dorms was on the UCLA campus radio station, and said that I could probably get on too. So among the several things I dabbled in, I would fill shifts on the campus radio station, but I never got a shift of my own. I don't even know who was in charge. Like my brief stint writing for the Daily Bruin, instead of pursuing it, I just dabbled and complained that I wasn't making the most of being at UCLA, even though that was my fault.

In the early 80's, LA radio was going through some sort of upheaval. KMET checked out while I was a UCLA student, and Rick Carroll was instituting the "Roq of the 80's" format at KROQ, which I really enjoyed. I became a school teacher, trying to get a handle on rap, but sticking to my punk rock roots. KLOS was still around, but seemed locked in the 70's (and as I typed that, I checked what was playing on the station-Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak"). And while on the topic of the 70's, Howard Stern came to town via satellite on classic rocker KLSX. I liked Stern after he got over how he was going to beat Mark and Brian and Kevin and Bean, and just started being Howard Stern.

And then I quit working for LA Unified and went to San Luis Obispo to starve.

That wasn't really the plan, but that's how it played out. It was 1992, and I figured that I could land a teaching job pretty quick, so went to SLO before I had a job lined up-a mistake that I have had the good sense to not repeat. There's more, but I'm going to leave my arrival in SLO at that for now. I did land on K-OTTER, playing a very (and I mean very) small part of what might well have been the last free form FM station.

In late '92, I spoke with Clam Chowder and Drew, and they let me come on the air.

I became the fill in overnight guy, and I think my busiest week came in the summer of '93 when I filled three shifts.

I had an idea of doing a show entitled, "The History of Alternative Rock," which I thought went pretty well. I'd take an alternative act, say the Velvet Underground, Elvis Costello or Wall of Voodoo, and then build an hour show on any obscure tracks that I could dig out of either my collection or the station's library, and give a history that I would research as best I could at the local library. It took a great deal of work, since this was before the internet, and I had a vision of becoming wildly successful and then syndicating my show nationally. It didn't quite work like that, but it might have if I had stayed on the station longer.

A week before I was scheduled to fill in, I decided that I would play every song in the station that had "God" or "Jesus" in the title. It might have been a good idea if I had tightened it to an hour and came up with a commentary. Instead, it took over 3 1/2 hours, and let's just say that it wasn't a particularly popular show with the audience. The cool thing is that I was allowed to do it and several of the jocks had left me suggestions when I mentioned around the station that I was going to give it a try.

I know for certain that I was the only one on the station to play Ice-T's heavy metal band, Body Count. It wasn't even close to the music the station generally played, but I wanted to hear what all the fuss was about in the song "Cop Killer".  I liked it enough to buy the cd-I remember finding it at Poo-Bah's in Pasadena, the pressing with "Cop Killer," for $8.99.

I'd do the whole show, midnight to 5:30 AM, standing up. I tried to sit, but couldn't, even when songs were playing. I remember reading an interview with Tom Leykis (who I used to enjoy listening to on KLSX-unfortunately long after I was married. I could have used his advice when I was single), where Leykis was saying that he always did his show standing up, and another with John Madden who used to do his football broadcast the same way. Not that I was as good as those guys, but no matter how tired or sleepy-and after 4 AM I was usually both-I was, I stayed standing.

Matthew Sweet,Girlfriend - Legacy Edition,USA,Deleted,DOUBLE CD,470315K-OTTER introduced me to my all-time favorite album, Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend, a record that had everything, screaming guitars, awesome drum lines, and great vocals, and with lyrics that really seemed to hit me as I was approaching 30 and thinking that being single was fun at that girl-juggling point of my life, but maybe I'd better figure out what I wanted and go find it. I also was introduced to Barenaked Ladies, who played an acoustic in-store at, I think Boo-Boo's.

When my last shift wound down, I played songs that somehow reflected my feelings about my move back to LA and leaving K-OTTER. I think I have the tape in my garage, and maybe I'll find it, but I know I played the Faces' Had Me a Real Good Time, (I was glad to come/I'll be so sad to leave/But while I was here I had me a real good time), and X's Los AngelesIf I recall, my final song on the air was Michelle Shocked's Come A Long Way  (I've come a long way/But never even left LA). I believe that was the last week of August, 1993, right after my 30th birthday.

I'm ashamed to say that nowadays if I have a music station on in the car, it is usually Jack-FM. Jack FM is about as corporate as corporate can be, a CBS owned station with no disk-jockeys at all, licensed throughout the United States and Canada. Same playlist, even if it is over 1,000 songs, all over the country. It mostly favors the 90's but may occasionally reach into the 70's or become as current as five years ago. It's like having someone else's MP3 player that has if not your favorite songs, then at least songs that you're willing to listen to and don't make you either think or vomit. Intellectually, I find it wrong, the loss of the DJ really making the station totally impersonal, the antithesis of K-OTTER. But it's the station that my whole family will listen to with minimal fuss.

Otherwise, it's KNX, the news station I started listening to in 1984. If you were to ask my kids what Dad listens to, they'd say that Dad always has the news on. Over 3,000 compact discs, a few thousand albums and tapes, and thousands more MP3's, and I almost never listen to music anymore.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bollini's and Dim Sum Express, Monterey Park (and Twoheys and Fosselmans, too)

Bollini's Pizzeria Napoletana
2315 S. Garfield Avenue
Monterey Park, CA 

Dim Sum Express
326 N. Garfield Avenue
Monterey Park, CA

My daughter and I were south for a water polo tournament, and when lunch time came, she wanted noodles.

Monterey Park should have been easy to find noodles in, and we pulled into a strip mall that had some sort of Asian restaurant, but there was a long line for it, and she was hungry, so we tried Bollini's instead.

I like eating with my daughter. She is getting to an age where she is both a bit adventurous in her eating and has a good appetite. I knew walking in the door that this wasn't Pizza Hut, and though the food was going to be a bit more than I wanted to spend, it smelled really good. 

A giant, wood burning pizza oven greeted us at the door, and the idea of a pizza certainly was appealing. Looking at the lunch menu, though, I thought their panini sandwiches also looked interesting. My daughter, bless her heart, was thinking the opposite of me, and we agreed to split our food, allowing both of us to have both pizza and panini.

As we sat down, our waiter immediately put an appetizer in front of us, a bread and pesto dish with a spicy reddish sauce. "It adds a little something to the pizza," he said as he walked away. I tried it on the bread, and it had a mild, flavorful heat to it, which I didn't really expect in an Italian restaurant.

I had a small pizza, named the 'Lulu,' thin crust with sauce, cheese, bacon, basil, garlic and pineapple, and my daughter went with the roast beef panini with au jous and three leaf salad.

The order came quickly and I found it to be quite tasty. The thin crust pizza was excellent, with the flavor blending together atop the thin, almost crispy crust. I really enjoyed the bacon (not Canadian bacon) the was just shy of crispy, and the contrast the of the garlic and basil with the pineapple. My daughter's panini was also good, filled with tender roast beef and melted cheese. The gorgonzola dressing that topped the salad added a bit of tartness that made the salad seem lighter than it would have with ranch or blue cheese. There was enough left over for my daughter's dinner as well.

We headed to Fosselman's, an institution in the San Gabriel Valley that is as good as everyone says it is. I had the sweet corn, which was creamy and sweet, but not overly so, with little corn kernels. It had a hint of corn flavoring, but it certainly wasn't like canned cream corn. My daughter had lemon custard, which though lemony, wasn't tart like a sherbet but instead rather creamy and refreshing. Fosselman's isn't as heavy as, say, Ben and Jerry's, but certainly with a higher cream content than Baskin-Robbins or Rite Aid. Where Baskin-Robins and Rite Aid seem very sweet, Fosselman's has more flavor. It really is worth a stop when you are near, but since there are a wealth of comments on the internet, I don't feel I have to add more.

Over the course of two days, I must have driven by Dim Sum Express a half a dozen times, and each time it had a line. Since it was in a place that was most likely a donut house in a previous life, I figured that it couldn't be too expensive, and since I had blown the food budget at Bollini's, Dim Sum Express was a place that we were definitely going to go.

It seemed a little sketchy walking up Sunday morning, but there was, like every time I had passed it for two days, a short line. We got to the window and took and order sheet. Looking it over, and looking at the pictures on the window, we ordered pot stickers, steamed BBQ pork buns, egg rolls and baked pineapple cream buns, along with a strawberry icy and a passion fruit icy that came in under $12. Not bad for a light lunch.

Looking inside the window, it seemed clean and busy. The phone rang the entire time, with the cashier taking orders in English, and I guess, Chinese.

Our food came up quickly, and though I wouldn't make a special trip from Ventura, it was tasty and filling. I thought the pot stickers were very good, not too greasy, and the pork buns blended the sweetness of the roll with the bite of BBQ pork. The icys were a good size for $1.75, and if I had been paying attention, I'd have paid the additional quarter for tapioca.

Along with the Dim Sum, there were several fast food items listed in the $7 range, something that I'll try when I'm in the area again.

My inlaws are big fans of Twoheys, another San Gabriel Valley institution. Everything on the menu is good, but their buttermilk made onion rings, and the home-made potato chips are excellent. They usually make a very good hot fudge sundae as well, but on this particular Sunday, the sundae was more fudge and whip cream than ice cream. My Father-in-Law said that Twohey's was about to be sold, though, so I don't know what the future will bring for them. Hopefully, the new owners won't mess with the formula too much.

There's plenty of info on both Fosselman's and Twohey's, so I didn't dedicate much space to them. They are good, though.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tacos Chifo, Ventura

Tacos El Chifo
Parking Lot
Sam's Central Market
Ventura Ave.
Ventura, CA

I always like tacos, but sometimes I want a good, meat and cheese quesadilla. It's like comfort food for me, even though my mom never made quesadillas. And the one that I seem to crave the most is out on the Avenues (which the businesses all seem to refer to as the "West End").

In the last few weeks, I've ended up sitting outside Sam's Central Market a couple of times, eating a hot quesadilla in the cold evening air, cheese burning my fingers as I tear the quesadilla into bite size pieces.

The quesadilla at Taco Chifo (I tried to look up "Chifo" to see what it means, and came up blank on Google) is large and for $6 is heavy on the cheese and asada, with tomato, lettuce and salsa verde. The cheese is so hot a gooey that I have to be careful or it'll burn me, and the smell stays on my hands for hours, but it's really good and warming the way that hot soup is warming. It warms from the inside in the cool night air.

The guy at the window is pretty nice, though his English was difficult to understand. The menu here is a bit wider than Tacos Jerez, which is about two blocks away (see my Feb. 29, 2012 post). The truck is big and clean, and the food fresh. I've had the tacos here also, and they're also good. Service is very fast as well.

They serve burritos and tortas, too, but  I'm not that hungry when I'm there in the evening. They look good, though, when I see them being ordered. There's always a few people milling about and one table to sit at. I didn't check the hours, but I've been by as early as 6 PM and as late as midnight.

The Yelp reviews are good, too.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thai Chinese

Thai Chinese Food 3
2337 N. Oxnard Blvd
Oxnard CA 93036

I don't know where Thai Chinese 1 and 2 are, or even if they exist. I do know that I've been going here since I first moved to Oxnard 17 years ago. And though I don't go so much anymore-it's a bit of a drive from Ventura-I do still seem to find my way to "Cham's" in a regular basis.

When I first went there, my dad was doing some work on the place I was living, and so he and I would go there. Cham the owner recognized us after a few visits, and even now he asks how my old man is doing. Cham is friendly and outgoing, and seems to know just about everyone who goes in. I was talking to a friend of mine, who was telling me about this amazing little place she knew about, and I realized she was describing Cham's. She went on to say that before her mother passed away that Cham would personally deliver food to her family's house when he found out her mother was sick.

Pad Thai
Cham is one of the genuinely nice people that also has the knack for remembering everyone.
Lad Nah
I was just reading Yelp reviews of the place, and it's all either 'love it' or 'hate it.' My whole family falls into the 'love it' category, and I've brought many people who feel the same way. In spite of not taking credit cards, the place is clean and always has customers. 

My 'go-to' dish is the Pad Thai, a noodle dish with chicken, shrimp, egg and thai sweet and sour. Today I tried the Lad Nah, to kind of mix up my usual order, which was rice noodles with chicken, shrimp broccoli and thai gravy.

Everything I've ever eaten at Cham's is good, though, and I especially enjoy their soups. 
Located in a strip mall behind Carl's Jr., Thai Chinese has a rather ordinary looking dining room and a few outside tables. But don't let the looks deceive you. The food is good.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Radio Radio, Pt. 1

The other day, I was talking to my daughter about "Dad's time on the radio," telling her that 20 years ago I had my own radio show.  She was actually interested, which was kind of cool.

20 years ago, I was living in San Luis Obispo, trying desperately to find a job. I wanted to be a writer, but that wasn't panning out well. While I was sitting around feeling sorry for myself, I read an article about K-OTTER in the (I think) New Times that talked to the two guys who kind of ran the station, Drew and Clam Chowder, who said they would let anyone on the air who was interested.

I figured that I was anyone and fit the description, and I wasn't doing anything anyway.

KHJ Boss Radio BillboardI'd always wanted to be on the radio. My earliest memories were standing in the back of my mom's '64

Malibu listening to Boss Radio KHJ and the "Real" Don Steele ("Tina Delgado is Alive! ALIVE!). I continued to listen to KHJ until the "Real" Don Steele moved to K-100-KIQQ.

That would be 1973, and as an adventurous 10 year old, I discovered Dr. Demento on "The Mighty Met," KMET. Somehow, I must have left the radio tuned to KMET on Monday morning after listening to the good Doctor's Sunday night show, and liked whatever was playing on the station the next day. I'd still listen to KHJ and K 100,and even follow the "Real" Don Steele to 10-Q, but my tastes were shifting to that FM style.
kroq therag 210 [Flashback] 106.7 KROQ FM Presents The Rag Of The 80s
Actually, I was just looking at an old 10-Q playlist, and according to that, I must have been listening to 10-Q a lot, because one of my favorite songs from that time period, Robert Gordon's Red Hot was only played on 10-Q, and I remember buying the 45 way back then.

In the summer of 1977, I conned my parents into taking me to see both Led Zeppelin and Kiss at the Forum, but my musical taste shifted again, and (as Frank Zappa used to say) I started to listen to a station with "Real Balls," the legendary KROQ in Pasadena. KROQ was the number one station on my radio from the time my parents let me have a station in the family car until now, though it is difficult to get here in Ventura and I'd have to say that I have no idea who is actually on the air other than Kevin and Bean (who I never really liked) and Dr. Drew. 

There were five stations I listened to in high school. KROQ was the always the first, but in the days before cassette players, radio was all I had in the car, so I was always changing between KROQ, KMET, KNAC, KWST and KLOS.

For a while, there, I'd say that I actually liked KNAC the best, but even from Downey it was difficult to get their signal. The transmitter, if I recall, was atop the F and M Bank building in downtown Long Beach, and there just wasn't that much juice. Still, their free form was free-er than KROQ's, and when I could get it, that's what I'd listen to.

But KNAC went heavy metal, KWST program director JJ Jackson went to MTV,
KMET become The Wave, and only KROQ and KLOS remained.

At UCLA I had a job that had me driving to the UCLA extension campus on 7th St. in Downtown LA in a van that only had AM radio. This was '84 and there were no AM music stations anymore. I started listening to KNX at the recommendation of the graduate I was replacing so I could hear Dan Rather's commentaries and the traffic report. Almost 30 years later, KNX is the station that is usually on in my car, but that's jumping ahead of my K-OTTER stint.

I'll finish this shortly, but I'd like to post what I have.