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Yay! A Plug In Rhode Island’s Major Alternative Publication! June 1, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Writing.
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Rhode Island’s legendary Phillipe & Jorge’s Cool Cool World column in MotifRI has given yours truly a booster shot in their latest column!

Phillipe and Jorge have been writing from Casa Diablo for many years now, offering their darkly humorous take on the cesspit of Rhode Island politics among other topics. Back in the pre-internet days of voluminous dead-tree alternative city papers, they appeared in The Providence Eagle before moving on its competitor, The New Paper, which eventually got swallowed up by it’s Boston counterpart and rose from the takeover ashes as The Providence Phoenix.

The Phoenix folded some years ago, Phillipe & Jorge (otherwise known as Rhode Island’s legendary Rudy Cheeks and Eagle sportswriter Chip Young – OMIGOD, I UNMASKED THEM, SUBPOENA ME IMMEDIATELY!) migrated to MotifRI.

Here’s what they had to say if you didn’t click on the link above:

New Book Reeks of Rhody (and a Lot More)

Kudos and congrats to Casa Diablo regular and Vo Dilun native Jim Berkin  (nee, Berkowitz) whose recently published second book in his Professor Wagstaff mystery series is now available via Amazon. Its title is Wagstaff & Meatballs and is loaded with pop culture and Vo Dilun references (from Brown and RISD to OC — that’s organized crime, aka, LCN, for the uninitiated). The book is a detective/mystery/comedy that would make two of its inspirations (Groucho and Providence’s own SJ Perelman) proud.
Jim has been teaching college courses in history, film and television in the southern California area for many years now. We highly recommend this book as a light and fun summer read.
Your superior correspondents do not wish to provide any spoilers so we hope this brief description will suffice. The first Wagstaff mystery, Cut to Wagstaff, is also available on Amazon and, to find out more about the author (one of the few people P&J know who was a contestant on “Jeopardy”), go to jimberkin.com.

I teach college? Who knew? I don’t know about you, but I’m not insisting on a correction!

Now, to be fair – I’ve known Rudy since my college days. I met him when he regularly ran “Comediac,” a weekly screening of so-bad-they’re-great movies at a local bar called One Up that I really miss. He’d screen stuff like Ed Wood films and The Creeping Terror and Humanoids From The Deep and, of course, The Brainiac, while adding one-liners and commentary via a portable mic and speaker.

And yes, this was YEARS before Mystery Science Theater 3000. I always thought Rudy had pioneered the idea.

Those regular Monday night Comediacs, drinks and all, helped me immensely in compiling material for my honors thesis in college. There was no other way I could have been able to see all those films in such a short amount of time in that pre-internet streaming world. I give those Comediac nighta a brief homage in Wagtaff & Meatballs when I refer to an alcohol-improved nerd argument I had with Eagle film critic Les Daniels about Rock & Roll High School during a game of pool.

Rudy wrote two regular columns for those alternative papers, his own “That Proves It” column, titled as a nod to Plan Nine From Outer Space, and co-wrote the Phillipe & Jorge bit as well. His long history with Rhode Island’s rock and blues scene is well known, starting out as the sax player for The Fabulous Motels and then as sax player/comic/songwriter with The Young Adults, who I guess could be Rhode Island’s early 1970s pre-answer to The Tubes meet The Dead Milkmen by way of Bo Diddley, I guess. Members of the Young Adults would go on to play alongside fellow Rhode Island blues legends like Duke Robillard (who I saw live one New Year’s Eve at One Up) and Roomful of Blues.

Rudy would go on to a morning radio gig on the top FM rock station in Providence after I moved away from Providence, as well as an AM afternoon talk radio program.

Rudy would appear with the Young Adults in the Rhode Island based rock comedy It’s A Complex World, the title coming from one of the Adults’ best loved songs.  Much more information on the film at the link!

Rudy suffered a stroke in the past year, but he’s been recovering nicely through the struggle. Slowly but surely, he’s lost weight and gotten his energy back, and is gradually recovering dexterity and mobility. His eye surgery was also a complete success and he can once again see out of both eyes. Well, how the hell do you think he read my book, anyway?

Best of luck to Rudy in his recovery, and thanks for the mention in the column. It’s not easy way out here in California to spread word about Wagstaff & Meatballs in Rhode Island, where everyone LOVES anything about Rhode Island, so thanks for the help!

 

 

Just What I Needed! Another Italian Cookbook! August 11, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Cooking, Food.
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Vincent-spaghetti-ad-vincent-price-1168556_268_371Why only have 27 when you can have 28? (Yes, I counted them when I got home.)

How many more recipes could I have on hand? How many could I actually eat before my inevitable death due to pasta-induced obesity?

Check the current over/under in Vegas & put me down for ten bucks on “over.” Too much is NEVER enough.

So finding On Top Of Spaghetti… by Johanne Killeen and George Germon while rooting around a Burbank thrift store I took as a SIGN FROM THE ALMIGHTY.  Killeen & Germon are the owners of Al Forno in my special-origins-issue of Providence, Rhode Island. Al Forno is probably the most famous of what I’d term the fancy/schmantzy upscale Italian that began appearing in the 1980s, existing alongside the old school red sauce places ubiquitous throughout the state. (If there’s a cookbook out there somewhere for Mike’s Kitchen, located inside a Cranston VFW post and my pick for best Italian in the state, I’d certainly love to hear about it. This is probably as close as I’ll get. One night long ago when I went to dinner there, we saw Germon eating there and chatting with Mike.  In Germon’s earlier book, they published Mike’s polenta recipe, which is a good’n. Mike is 85, and he’s had his perch at that VFW since my college days. May he live forever!)

Anyway, I’ll glance at all sorts of cookbooks at thrift stores, yardsales, library sales, you name it… my usual rule is that if I can’t find more than one recipe I’d want to cook while browsing through the book, I put it back for the next glutton to come along. Suffice to say that a book of original pasta recipes would be enough to pique my interest. And whenever I come across one that has a Rhode Island connection, I figure it’s a cosmic message.  It happened many years ago at a yardsale, when I came across a copy of We Called It Macaroni by Nancy Verde Barr. Barr grew up on Federal Hill and offers up a nice mix of family recipes and the cultural background of that old Italian neighborhood.

Authentic Rhode Island! THAT’S what I want on my dinner table! All that’s missing is Jimmy Two-Times to go get the papers get the papers.

The other books? I’d rather save focusing on them for different blog posts in the future. I’ll try to check back in with different ones after I cook some amazin’ recipe from them.  I have several focusing on different regions of Italian cookery from north to south, some from eminently trustworthy Italian chefs like Lidia Bastianich or Marcella Hazan, some from other great Italian restaurants in New York, Los Angeles and other cities…..

Yeah, I make Italian food a lot.

Which is why I agree with the title of this article, and ignore its final paragraphs.

Snow Job February 6, 2008

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Baseball, General.
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blizzard.jpg
It’s hard for me to believe that today is the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Great Blizzard of ’78, which dumped around 3 feet of snow over my driveway and front walk, including a drift closer to 4 feet over the damn walk which made shoveling it all even more difficult.

I still remember how one of my older brothers and my dad were stuck in NYC on business when the storm hit, so it was just me and my mom, pretty much snowed in until they plowed the streets a few days later. That was also about the amount of time it took us to dig my brother’s Scirocco out of a snowdrift and clear the rest of the driveway. A neighbor across the street (Good old Mr. O’Brien!) was willing to walk the mile or so down the hill to the grocery store for bread & milk runs for people the first couple of days.

Once the localized emergency of blocked up streets was over with, a friend of mine and I dug some tunnels into the giant piles of plowed snow on opposite street corners to make two competing snow forts for his little brothers (not that we also didn’t partake of some big-time snowball fightin’ action ourselves). I think those piles of snow didn’t melt until April, just in time to begin a truly memorable baseball season.

Years later, in the final weeks before I left Rhode Island for good and moved to California, I think I was shoveling that friggin driveway every day after yet another snow or sleet storm. All I kept thinking was how I’d never have to do that again, and so far I haven’t.

But I miss snowball fighting. Maybe if I paint some big rocks white and throw them at people playfully, they’ll get into the spirit.

No?

Bummer.