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Reviews Are Starting To Appear May 2, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Writing.
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So far, so good!

If you’ve read the new Wagstaff mystery, please post a review!

Big-time professional reviews forthcoming…. I gotta wait in line behind some other books for those.

Get your copy here & read an excerpt (the Kindle one is longer!)

It’s also part of Kindle Unlimited – so it’s FREE to check out if you’re on that service! The first Wagstaff book is too! Click here!

The current debate I’m having in my own li’l mind is whether or not to advertise the book in an upcoming Brown Alumni Monthly issue focusing on Brown authors.

I’m not sure how Brown will react to the book. Sure, I set it at an alumni weekend and offer all sorts of descriptions of Brown, Providence and its environs, with numerous episodes around town in restaurants, legendary RI food must-haves like Allie’s Donuts or Iggy’s Clamcakes.  An actual reunion I attended at Brown a few years ago inspired much of this one, ranging from the classmates I reconnected with to the changes in downtown Providence and the spectacle of WaterFire. I worked it all in, all within a story involving the special brand of Rhode Island mafia I grew up around.

So, yeah, there’s plenty of local color to go around, but I HAD to include some episodes satirizing academic classes at Brown. While it was tempting to go after the truly low-hanging fruit of current day safe space grievance studies, I saved the biggest rant for a film class I actually took back in the day, a class that made me sit through pretentious anti-cinema for semiotic purposes & totally got Hitchcock wrong.

Well, I felt like I got some revenge with that small section of my story. But I’m not sure how Brown will react to it, since it’s the hook I’d use in the advertising.

The troublemaker in me says to do it.

And the cheapskate says only if it’s not too much money.

So, we’ll see.

I have nice things to say in the book about the Brown band and the art at the RISD museum. Some of it even figures into the mystery.

The real debate is whether or not it will increase or decrease the chances of that honorary doctorate, right?

Check it out for yourself! And don’t forget to add to the reviews! Thanks!





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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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.



URI 49, Brown 42 (2OT) September 29, 2007

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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Reading the recap, I must admit, even with my alma mater losing AGAIN, that this sounds like it was a great and entertaining game, complete with irreverent Ivy band show. Alas, I never get to see the games anymore from my perch on the opposite coast. Too bad they never telecast the low hanging fruit of college football.

It’s also too bad the NFL doesn’t ditch “sudden death overtime” (which is usually decided by whoever wins the coin toss) with the easily more exciting, if complex, college overtime rules. The NFL added the 2 point conversion a few years ago and it’s made things more interesting. C’mon, Goodell, give it a shot!

Perhaps we should replace Goodell with Buddy Cianci, the former May-ah of Providence who recently finished his “sabbatical” in the federal lockup and is back on talk radio. You could always see him at the annual Brown/URI football game, sitting on the Brown side since it was a Providence school. Huzzah! But then, everyone seems to have a Buddy story!

My favorite is when he tried to get membership into the prestigious old-school-show-me-your-Mayflower-ticket-stub University Club, one of those exclusive gated places where old New England Yankee money shakes hands and runs things over cognac and cigars, and when he was rejected (no doubt for having too many vowels in his name), suddenly they couldn’t renew their liquor license…. or get a building variance…. and member’s cars always got ticketed in the street…. that is, until they offered him a lifetime membership.

Gosh, then all those problems all went away! It’s like magic!

Yeah, yeah, I know… rule of law and so forth. But I love hearing about stuff like that. And so did all of my fellow swarthy ethnic voters back in Rhode Island as well. Go Buddy! See you on the Brown side!