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Friday, July 30, 2010

A gourmet burger from Barney's of San Francisco.
According to the Arizona Food Industry Journal, sushi is one of the most popular foods of the last decade. Supermarkets have their own sushi chefs and devote decent space for sushi. I can eat the rolled up crab and shrimp sushi since it is cooked but raw fish? No way! I see people in restaurants eating the raw stuff and wonder how they can do it. I guess I’m just not “with it.”

Bacon is still a big seller which kind of surprises me with all the warnings about eating too much fat. I guess it is the yuppies who are avoiding it in their never ending quest to be thin and wear all the right clothes. I still love the stuff but try not to overdo it. Some of the best restaurant bacon is at The Good Egg restaurants in the Phoenix area. Just be sure to tell your server you want it “crispy” as that brings out the best flavor. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. It’s time for a BLT!

Cupcakes have become a big deal. They are not that big in supermarkets but cupcake shops have sprung up with a lot of overpriced stuff. A few years ago a place called Sprinkles opened at Camelback and Scottsdale Roads and did a land office business. They were getting $36 a dozen but for the “in” crowd, they had to have them at any price. California strikes again! I’ll take two Hostess from Circle K.

Gourmet hamburgers are popular now. It seems every restaurant has one or a selection of many. I thought we were supposed to be eating less fat. Never mind, gourmet is in and they are expensive with all the goodies piled on especially if you have to have Kobe beef which is loaded with fat. I’ve eaten a lot of burgers in my life but none lately. I’m not sure if it is because my tastes have changed or that I found out that McDonald’s meat has so many preservatives in it that it can’t possibly spoil. I’ll take a ham on rye instead.

Sliders are now a big deal too although to me they are nothing new. They are nothing but small burgers, tuna, chicken, or whatever. In Cincinnati we used to go to the nearest White Castle hamburger joint after a night of too much drinking and scarf several of those 12 cent suckers down. Their slogan was “Buy ‘em by the sack” and they were really good at 3:00 in the morning. Greasy little burgers with greasy onions: Yum, life was good!

Coffee and tea have become big deals. I think a lot of people take these two items way too serious, especially coffee. You have to hand it to places like Starbucks and Tully’s for the prices they are able to get for a cup of joe. Somehow I can’t picture myself sitting in a Starbucks all morning working on a laptop computer drinking $4 cups of coffee that tastes about the same as private label store coffee. Circle K coffee is better and cheaper.

You have to hand it to Starbucks, though. They have convinced a lot of people that the Starbucks logo is something they can’t live without and at the same time have made a lot of money.

If you want to leave a comment or read other comments, go to "Jim's azcentral blogs" in the right column under links. You will not get a virus. Jim McAllister writes for The Arizona Republic.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Remembering past rockers

Duane Allman (1946-1971) of the Allman Brothers Band
When Bret Michaels of Poison recently suffered a brain hemorrhage, it made me think of the older rock stars that I enjoyed years ago and the premature demise of many. Fortunately, Michaels survived so he is one of the lucky ones but with their hard driving lifestyles, a lot of these guys go ten toes pointing up long before they need to. Too much booze, dope, and women can lead to a downfall but not necessarily in that order.

Keith Moon was the drummer for The Who but he left us in 1978 at age 32 after he OD on pills and choked to death on his own vomit. Jimi Hendrix also did the vomit choking thing in 1970 when he died in a London hospital at 27. Pills were the culprit there also. Janis Joplin died of heroin poisoning in 1970 sixteen days after Hendrix.

Those 60’s and 70’s rockers didn’t fool around when it came to drugs and booze. I remember Janis wailing away on stage while swilling from a bottle of Southern Comfort. Hendrix was known for some heavy drug use, especially LSD although when they did an autopsy on him, they found more red wine than anything besides an overdose of sleeping pills. The dosage on those pills was half a tablet but some sources say he took about nine of them that night. Moon was on medication that was supposed to handle withdrawal from alcoholism. Being a compulsive guy, he took 32 tablets in a short amount of time which was plenty to kill him.

Does anyone remember Bobby Darin? Bobby died in 1973 at age 37 from complications of open heart surgery. My greatest remembrance of him was his first big hit “Dream Lover” in 1959. It was a smash as it became an anthem for the drive-in movie and restaurant teen crowd. Bobby was more interested in sounding like Frank Sinatra though and followed with million seller “Mack the Knife” in 1960. He also did some acting roles in movies along with Las Vegas gigs until heart problems caught up with him much too early in life.

Most of us remember the big hit from 1979, “My Sharona” by The Knack. Lead singer and guitarist Doug Fieger died in February, 2010 of a brain tumor. “My Sharona” was another one of those anthem songs for a lot of kids who grew up in the 70s. I danced to it many times myself and was sad to see Fieger go at the young age of 57.

Alex Chilton was the lead singer for The Box Tops, a great little group from the 1960’s. In 1967 they released their biggest hit, “The Letter.” Barb and I danced to that song many times in my college days in Missouri in the late ‘60s. Chilton died at 59 of heart failure in May of 2010.

Every time I hear the old tunes, I can think of somewhere in the past I heard them and the good times that accompanied them. When I see these artists dying off, it is like losing part of my youth. Fortunately, they will always be with us in a sense through their recordings.

To leave a comment or read other comments, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under links. You will not receive a virus. Jim McAllister writes for The Arizona Republic.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The battle of the sexes

"Be sure to fill the gas tank, honey. Remember you ran out once 40 years ago."

As much as a man and woman may love each other, they will always have differences of opinion, especially about the "small stuff." Years ago, it was referred to as "The battle of the sexes." I don’t know what they call it today but I know it inspired the term "Yes, dear."

As an example, Barb and I decided to go to Queen Creek today and check out a place called the Olive Mill. We decided to go through Fountain Hills and use Gilbert Road to get to the Superstition to avoid the faster yet boring route of the101. The gas tank was a little below 1/4 and I was told to fill up before we reached the freeway. I mentioned that we had plenty of gas to get there and could fill up then. I was promptly told to fill up NOW and that I had run out of gas a few times in the past and she didn’t want to have it happen again. All right, maybe I did run out once or twice about 40 years ago, but....but...but. "Yes dear, is this Valero station O. K.?"

Last week Barb went to Denver to see a couple of her girlfriends. It was a three day trip but she prepared for it at least a week. I told her that when I was out in my sales territory for three days, it took me only about an hour to pack a couple suits, shirts, shaving kit, etc. I was told it is "different" with girls because they need to take things that we wouldn’t understand. Uh..... "Yes, dear."

I think men rule the road, especially when it comes to getting around. When a new road opens, the guys take advantage of it if it is an improvement of the way to get to a certain place. When women learn how to get from "A" to "B" they are usually welded to that route regardless of how many times you say, "But, if you take the 101 to the 202, you can get to the airport quicker." Usually, a guy will get the "No, I might get lost. I’m sticking with my old way." Yes, dear.

Then there is the "move the furniture around" routine that the girls like. How many times have you guys come home and found your Lazy Boy in a new location further from the beer box or the newspaper you left on the floor that morning? Archie Bunker was lucky; Edith knew better than to move his chair or even have the audacity to sit in it.

Regardless of the small stuff, the guys still love the girls. After all, those great meals don’t materialize out of thin air and it is nice to have someone to rub feet with on a cold winter night. It’s well worth a few "Yes, dears" now and then.

To leave a comment or to read any of the 64 other comments, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under links. You will not get a virus. Jim McAllister writes for The Arizona Republic.

Monday, July 12, 2010

1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air hardtop.
I was a car freak when I was a kid. There wasn’t a car on the road I didn’t know and they didn’t change much from year to year. Only kids like me and my friends could tell the difference between a ‘49 and ‘50 Ford and Mercury or a ‘47 and ‘48 Chevy. We loved those heaps and waited anxiously until we were 16 and could get our driver’s licenses.

Unlike now, in those days the new models came out usually at the very end of the previous year or in early January. It was in early January of 1955 when I took my annual bus ride to Queen City Chevrolet in downtown Cincinnati to see what kind of boxy model Chevy had to offer for that year. I was expecting another version of the ’54 with maybe new taillights or door handles when to my surprise, I saw the sleek new model for 1955. Was this really a Chevy with its old 6 banger? No way, Chevy had graduated to a V8 (6 was still available) and put it in a stylish new group of body styles.

Thus began the greatest triumvirate in auto history. The 1955, ‘56, and ‘57 Chevys were on their way to a grateful America. There was nothing quite like the sound of the new 1955 265 cube V8 running through the gears. It was a whine that I will never forget. It was advertised as “The Hot One” and other ads told us “Don’t argue with this baby!”

In 1956, several advances were made from the ’55 and they weren’t just cosmetic. $40million was spent on styling improvements while the V8 and 6 were given more power. It’s no wonder they said “The hot one is even hotter!” My brother had a 1956 Chevy convertible with a “power pack.” A power pack was basically a four barrel carburetor with dual exhaust and it really would move! Also available was a V8 with TWO four barrel carbs if you REALLY wanted to move.

The ’57 Chevy was advertised as “Sweet, smooth, and sassy.” With a new fuel injection system added to the line it certainly was sassy. It also received a styling facelift to give it a longer and lower look. I always like the abbreviated fins on the back fenders and the dual rocket hood ornaments.

The ‘57 was the last of the three years of classic Chevys and after vintage Corvettes, is the most sought after car by collectors. The most popular of the 57’s was the red convertible; every baby boomer of the 50s and 60s wanted that car.

Those were great cars and a credit to General Motors’s engineering of that era. In 1958 they were gone and replaced by a new design which included a 348 cube V8 in the new Impala. They were nice cars but not in the same league as the ’55,’56,and ’57.

I doubt if anyone will ever match those three years of Chevys and to those of us who remember those times, they are a fond memory.

To leave a comment or to read other comments, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under links. You won't get a virus. Jim McAllister writes for The Arizona Republic.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Moving to Arizona? Research it first!

above: Arizona in the winter north of Phoenix, 2005. Very unusual!
below: Arizona wildflowers in the Spring



I have never moved anywhere without researching the area. It’s only common sense that a person should want to know about an area before they invest in a home and a possible change in lifestyle.

In 1987, my wife and I decided to look into Arizona as a place to spend some time in the winter away from our home in Kansas City. We decided to buy a condo in north Scottsdale but before we did we looked carefully at the Scottsdale weather as we were not interested in spending time in a place with cold winters. If we wanted that, all we had to do was stay in Kansas City. By 1989, we liked it here so much that we made our move permanent. What was not to like about playing golf in average daytime temperatures of 65 during December and January?

Strangely enough, I have met people in Arizona who have moved here sight unseen and are not happy with the area. They say it is too hot in the summer and not warm enough in the winter. I asked one person from St. Louis who I met in November about 15 years ago how she liked our nice weather in that month. Her reply was she thought it would be nicer if it was warmer than the 72 degrees it had been that day. I felt like asking her if she would have preferred a St. Louis November day.

When someone makes the decision that Arizona will be their permanent home, they will probably have some questions about the area that will bring a laugh from Zonies who are used to the lifestyle here. I know this from experience as I had my share. For example: What is a swamp cooler? What is a load controller? Since rain is a rarity, why are there signs in the desert that say "Don’t cross road when flooded." I thought Arizona was a desert. Where are the sand dunes? (Try Yuma). What do you mean that every plant has a drip system? What’s that? Can you fry an egg on the sidewalk in June? (No, it just seems that hot!)

Now that I have logged 21 years in north Scottsdale and know the answers to the above questions, I still find humor with winter visitors who I see going to the pools during 55 degree January days in brightly colored swim suits with various pool paraphernalia under their arms. I guess if you have been wintering in Duluth, that 55degrees seems pretty inviting.

To leave a comment or read other comments, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under inks. You won't get a virus. Jim McAllister writes for The Arizona Republic.