Dark powder blue.

Wind chill of minus-30 is expected tonight and tomorrow morning with wind gusts up to 45 mph or so, so I am at home doing the worry-thing. I’m pretty good at it by now. As I type this, at least, the weather map for Boston is an unusual and not unattractive dark powder blue.

The Internet Archive is once again posting vinyl rips to its Unlocked Recordings collection … but they seem to be on an opera jag lately, which interests me not one iota.

After writing nine biographies of ballparks, I’ve had my first biography of a person published this week by the SABR Biography Project. The subject, former umpire Doll Derr, is thoroughly obscure; I’m hoping I get a couple of views from people who have never heard of him and think maybe Doll Derr was a character from A League of Their Own.

A second biography has been submitted; a third is drafted and waiting for an opportunity to be filed; and I am researching a fourth. All are relatively obscure, which tends to be how I like it.

Obits and biscuits.

Lance Kerwin has been dead for four days and the Boston Globe still hasn’t hoisted an obit on its website — not even an Associated Press obit — to honor the young man who starred in the absolute finest television series ever set in Boston. (Ernie “Coach” Pantusso fans, pipe down.)

The New York Times, on the other hand, was prompt this afternoon to post a staff-written obit for Tom Verlaine, formerly singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the Seventies New York art-punk band Television.

Remember when I was writing about Jeff Beck not long ago, and I said I wished I’d written a date on every one of my LPs so I knew when I’d bought them and could flash back to when they were new to me?

Television’s Marquee Moon is one I’d like to have done that with — although I can kindasorta time my acquisition of it to junior year of high school.

I preferred fishing in the $1 vinyl bin, but from time to time I invested in CDs when I had to — mostly for less popular or less common albums like Marquee Moon. The kinds of records that didn’t sell that many copies when they first came out, so you couldn’t find them cheaply on vinyl. Funkadelic albums were that way too, as were some Zappa.

As I saved my money and shelled out for the occasional CD, it marked a broadening of my tastes from the familiar, well-groomed major-label music that was cheap on vinyl to weirder, gnarlier fare.

I think I bought Marquee Moon and Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band’s Trout Mask Replica at about the same time — both on CD — maybe even on the same trip to the record store, if I were flush enough to buy multiple CDs. The longboxes for one or both probably landed in my locker for a while, where my high school classmates were completely undazzled by my eclecticism.

I’d read about Marquee Moon, and I’d heard Television’s “See No Evil” during a brief foray onto a local alternative-radio station. It turned my head — hey, these guys are weird but hooky! — so I bought the CD.

The CD still works, three-plus decades later — oblivious to its own trip from next-big-thing to outmoded musical technology — and I put it on while I was cooking dinner tonight.

And just like a thousand times before, I didn’t get past the first four songs — what would be Side One on vinyl — because those first four songs are absolutely killer, full of hooks and details and genius, and the side-closing “Marquee Moon” is so shimmering and otherworldly I usually stop listening to any and all music after I’ve heard it.

I could embed something from YouTube here … but, y’know what? Some things carry a richer reward if you go out of your way and find ’em yourself, and I think “Marquee Moon” (and Marquee Moon) are that way.

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The younger son went back to college in NYC this morning after a crazy long winter break. Last night I marked his impending departure with one of those dinners that started out as a joke and turned into reality.

When my folks lived in the Finger Lakes, we used to drive through the village of Dundee, New York, to get to their place. (Yes, the local school sports teams are called the Scotsmen. No, they don’t wear plaid.)

There’s a gas station and convenience store on the main drag there, the kind of place that sells hot dogs off a roller machine and slushies in eight flavors and dip tobacco.

Based on the electronic sign out front, they also sell something called “Chicky Bisky.”

The name Chicky Bisky made us roar with laughter. It sounded like something you’d see on The Simpsons — like the reductio ad absurdum of roadside fast food. We imagined an entire subculture based on Chicky Bisky … a world, for instance, where the offensive line of the Dundee High football team would gather at the store on slow afternoons and challenge each other to epic Chicky Bisky-eating contests, filling the garbage can between the gas pumps with spent wrappers.

We never stopped to sample the genuine article. But it was probably inevitable that we would decide to make Chicky Bisky at home for ourselves on a few occasions … and that my son would jokingly, but not jokingly, ask for it for his last dinner at home for a while.

It’s not a great leap, really. I’ve made baking powder biscuits for years; my kids grew up on my baking powder biscuits. I have two or three recipes for them, including one from my grandmother and another from a random woman in northern Vermont. The woman from Vermont, oddly enough, became the default, and I think you’ll agree from looking at her that she’s seen some action:

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The “chicky” is just pieces of chicken breast, pounded thin, breaded, and fried as shallowly as humanly possible in a skillet. I soaked this batch in pseudo-buttermilk just to be special, though I’m not sure it made that much difference.

So we chickied, and we biskied, and this morning the kid caught an Amtrak train back to New York … as content, I daresay, as if he’d ventured directly to Dundee for the genuine article.

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Kurt Peuckert weeps.

Almost seven years ago (was it really that long?) I wrote about a crumbling old brewery in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, and what a community loses when it loses a brewery building.

Today another abandoned Pennsylvania brewery is getting its wings. The paper I used to work for reports that the former Neuweiler brewery complex in Allentown is being torn down to make way for retail and residential redevelopment.

I’d include a link, except that the story is subscribers-only. I’d also include a photo or two I snapped some years ago while driving past the brewery, except I can’t find ’em. I think I only took them to put on my Instagram account, and since I’ve stopped using Instagram I can’t see my old photos beyond the first dozen or so. It is no great loss.

(The application submitted for the building’s successful entry onto the National Register of Historic Places is available online, and includes pictures and descriptions that will give you some sense of the place. Apparently it was built between 1911 and 1913, and was designed in part by an obscure Philadelphia architect named Kurt Peuckert — or at least he was obscure at the time the application was prepared, before the Interwebs came along. Some of the info they couldn’t find in the late 1980s sits right at one’s fingertips today. Anyway.)

Neuweiler was one of those regional brewers that escaped the snare of Prohibition, only to be cut down in 1968 when national brands began to dominate the industry. The main building of the complex has been empty since the last case left, though the outbuildings were reused for storage and other purposes.

When I lived in the Lehigh Valley, a couple of small-time brewers signed a lease for the property at one point, nurturing all kinds of bright ideas. People I knew who knew more than I did scoffed at the proposed reuse, and it came to naught.

At this point the demolition of the brewery is a loss to no one. Time has had its opportunity to come up with something new, and nothing’s come along in fifty-plus years. That’s a long time to wait.

I don’t know why the Kaier’s building in Mahanoy City stirred me to great flights of lamentation seven years ago, and this one doesn’t … but, this one really doesn’t. Maybe I’ve become cold and unfeeling. Or, maybe the history and the ghosts of Neuweiler have simply had the run of their building for too long.

I wonder casually if it is the last surviving building to come off Kurt Peuckert’s drawing board, or if there are any others remaining. On one hand, he died in 1914, which is a long time ago. On the other, old urban brick can last a long time in thoughtful hands.

He did a bunch of work for long-gone breweries with names like Straubmuller & Son, Rieger & Gretz, Prospect Brewing and American Brewing. A true friend of the brewer and maltster, was Kurt Peuckert.

I knew if I just kept writing long enough I’d get thirsty.

Luw.

– The faithful slow cooker, it gets old; the display is starting to go. The other day I made slow cooker French onion soup. Good for days when you’re not going into the office and you can slice up six or seven onions in the morning without worrying about offending anybody.

I was surprised when we went to the French restaurant not long ago that none of the three of us ordered French onion soup. We make it frequently enough that I figured one of us would want to compare the home version to a professionally made equivalent. I sat with a view of the kitchen, and watched small tureens come through the doors all night, but none stopped at our table. Some other time.

– Last night I was listening to AC/DC’s Blow Up Your Video, a 1988 album that I briefly owned on vinyl as a youth and then traded back in. It is one of those that can be found in full on the Internet Archive. (I would have saved my $1 in 1990 if I’d known I could hear it for free online in 2023. There’s nothing there I couldn’t have waited for.)

I found myself contemplating the narrow line between a good AC/DC album and a horrid one. The riffs are dumb and simple on Blow Up Your Video, while the lyrics are sexist and formulaic … but the same can be said for all their good albums too. (“Good” being a relative term, perhaps I really mean their “successful” albums, or the albums on which people generally seemed to welcome what they had to offer.)

– Completed an annoying annual task over the weekend. I only have to do it twice more in my life. Huzzah!

As the years pass, the kids get older, etc., the once-familiar tasks that drop from life’s list start to add up. I shredded many years’ worth of old financial documents recently, and along the way I came across a check receipt for the kids’ old day care in Pennsylvania. I took a cell phone pic, shared it with wife and kids, and then shredded the receipt cheerfully into oblivion along with about 10,000 other documents.

I thought for a moment about Googling the place to see if it’s still open, then thought, “the hell with it.” It was run by an older couple who have most likely sold out and moved on by now … so even if it’s still there it’s not really the same place.

– The younger son goes back to college in NYC this coming weekend, ending a lengthy winter break. Pretty sure he’s ready. Older son went back several weeks ago; pretty sure he was ready too.

Casserole.

I am reminded while reading the Boston Globe that football is the only professional sport in which the phrase “reportedly had feeling in his extremities” appears regularly in news coverage.

Pitchers and catchers report in less than a month.

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Meet my hominy casserole. Love my hominy casserole.

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I like hominy, so I bought some dried hominy, and eventually I soaked and cooked it. In search of something to do with it besides soup, I found a hominy au gratin recipe allegedly connected to Julia Child. It’s basically hominy baked with mac-and-cheese sauce, with some more cheese sprinkled on top.

It was kinda bland, needing salsa or Frank’s Red Hot to make it interesting.

I still like hominy.

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It appears I will have a SABR Games Project story in a third book — this one about Sandy Koufax, scheduled to publish early in 2024. The story won’t be due until much later in the year but I may get it done early, just for nice. As an added bonus, the radio broadcast of the game is available at Archive dot org, and I spent time yesterday listening to it and harvesting color.

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The freaky radio show I listen to most Tuesday nights is having streaming problems, and every so often it just hangs up and starts skipping, and that actually adds to the pleasure … it’s weird to begin with and then these glitches come along and make it weirder.

I was going to say that more entertainment should have glitches built in. But on further review I don’t think I’d enjoy a movie or TV show that hung up (if I still watched movies or TV shows), or a novel that had two Chapter 11s back-to-back and no Chapter 12 (every so often I still make my way through a novel; more of that should probably be a goal for me in this still-new year.)

A radio show with skips and starts, on the other hand, is all to the good.

Led boots.

Note to self: In my next life, one of the things I’m going to do differently is put a small sticker on the cover of every LP I buy, with the date that I bought it (and maybe the place, also.) It would be fun to look back at all these slabs of vinyl and remember how old I was and where I was when they were new and unknown and exciting.

A great many of them came home during my high school and college years from a shop in the Rochester suburbs called first Fantasy Records, then Fantastic Records. Presumably the name change followed some notice of estoppel from the Bay Area record label that was home to Vince Guaraldi and Creedence Clearwater Revival. That story sounds familiar, but I can’t remember at some distance whether I actually heard it back in the day, or just assumed it. (The shop is long gone.)

They had a $1 bin and a generous attitude toward stocking it, at least in terms of big famous major-label warhorse albums. The thrifty record buyer could Rumours and Aqualung and KISS Alive! and The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle there to their heart’s content.

A fair amount of my Jeff Beck holdings came out of that bin. Like Beck Bogert & Appice, a truly, truly dreadful record in its blandness and its competence. A wet pillow of an album. Traded that one back in long ago.

I’m fairly sure my twofer of Truth and Beck-Ola, Beck’s first two solo albums, was a dollar-bin job as well … simply because the cardboard is well-worn and I sure didn’t put all that wear on it. Truth is worth hearing once when you’re 14 or 15 and heavy British blues-rock still sounds interesting to you. Beck-Ola, with its two Elvis covers, isn’t.

Blow by Blow came either from Fantasy/Fantastic, or possibly a few years later from In Your Ear! on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston — also recently closed. That was better than the others, smooth and polished, but I never actually found myself putting it on very often.

The Beck album that’s gotten the most play and the greatest esteem in my collection is Wired, the second of the three successful studio albums Beck released between 1975 and 1980. (Blow by Blow was the first; There & Back, which I never picked up, was the last.)

I know Wired was a Fantasy/Fantastic purchase, dating back to roughly junior year of high school or even sophomore year. I’m fairly certain I bought my copy new in the plastic wrapper, which I didn’t do very often.

I’m not sure what it was about Beck or Wired that inspired me to plunk down the extra $3.99, or whatever the cost was. Wired has justified the extra expense, though. Alone among Beck’s albums, I still take it out all these years later and play it from time to time.

(Of course it got taped onto cassette, and as I recall, the cassette got a decent amount of play. A few years ago I still could have told you what I put on the other side of the tape. For years I associated random albums with each other, simply because they entered my collection at the same time and ended up on either side of a cassette for the car. My cassettes went out to the landfill some years ago, and those old associations are fading in my mind.)

It’s not a great or essential album. Outside of Beck’s languid cover of “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” Wired is pretty much straight fuzak … instrumental music for weather reports or for driving a sports car around Los Angeles.

But, not every record you listen to is required to take off the top of your head and force you to contemplate man’s inhumanity to man. Pleasant, familiar, unchallenging sound will suffice, sometimes. I think anyone who is into music has some songs and albums that are the equivalent of well-worn sweatshirts, and Wired is among mine.

I wonder when it was that I first peeled off the plastic wrap … when the comfy sweatshirt was new, so to speak.

All the garlic.

Last night we went to a French restaurant to celebrate my son’s birthday.

I jokingly suggested a French restaurant for the occasion as an example of fanciness and elegance. (I’m behind the times in associating French restaurants with elegance, probably.) My younger son, who is always up for an adventure in elegance, took me up on it.

It was a good meal. The service wasn’t great, but we weren’t in any hurry. The kid raved about his chocolate pudding cake; I make a pretty good and reasonably healthy chocolate pudding cake, but I think I have to splurge and find a different recipe that delivers the goods a little more.

I also ate escargot for the first time. And so did my walletcard. It seems like we both enjoyed it:

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This led to a discussion of cast-iron escargot dishes, a specialty item if ever there was one. I wonder where one gets a cast-iron escargot dish? (I’m sure sourcing the escargot dish is easier than sourcing the escargot.)

I was surprised not to see calvados on the menu; it seems to me to be a natural postprandial option for a French restaurant. Thankfully I had a cheap bottle at home, and I went home and had some of that. If I had lots of money and idle time, I might become a calvados aficionado — i.e., the sort of jerk who obsesses smugly about tiny and irrelevant details while the world burns. Sounds like me, n’est-ce pas?

(That would be a good headline for a newspaper obituary: “Kurt Blumenau, calvados aficionado.” My wife and I still talk about the obit headline we once saw that described the decedent as an “avid pickler.”)

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Earlier in the day, I also took on a task that will take me some time.

I’m one of those people who piles up year-by-year hard-copy financial records in manila envelopes, and then realizes every few years that I’m overdue to get rid of the oldest ones.

I’ve also decided this year that I’m going to shorten my document retention schedule. In all my years of compiling these records, I’ve only ever had to go back into them once or maybe twice to find a document, and the document has never been older than one year.

The end result of all this is I’ve got a whopping big pile of old stuff that needs to be shredded. And my cheap little shredder can only take so much before it overheats and I have to shut down its efforts for a while. So, as I said, this will take me some time.

It is, at least, a fun exercise, because the old bills remind me of places in Pennsylvania I haven’t thought of in years. Dan’s Camera City, where I bought film! Newhard’s Pharmacy, where I dropped it off to get developed (and maybe bought my kids a Whatchamacallit bar apiece if I was feeling generous)! Nazareth Music Center, where I rented my kids’ band instruments! The spacious MacArthur Road Giant grocery store, and its cramped and outmoded (but close to the house) little brother, Coplay Giant!

(I have largely retrained myself to spell Copley with an E, rather than an A, but every so often the other spelling crosses my mind.)

Anyway, in a folder marked 2015 Other, I found my 2015 walletcard. I thought I’d thrown it out. I should have thrown it out. But instead I packed it away.

Now  I’m gonna throw it out. But not before I take a picture:

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The New York Times counsels me that the path to happiness is to talk to more strangers. I am waiting (by myself) for them to suggest an alternative.

The diddley bow has been silent; I think I am waiting for the younger son to go back to college, which doesn’t happen for several weeks yet.

Work is in a transitional place. I’ve been toying with the idea that I am moving into a new phase. For a while I was the up-and-coming young kid. Then I was the established mid-career professional. As I see younger colleagues celebrate marriages and new babies, I have a vague feeling that I’m approaching the third and final phase, and starting to become The Older Guy. I haven’t figured out who that guy is yet … though I am bound and determined not to let him become a complacent clock-watcher who grumbles about how much better things used to be.

I am about to start drafting a SABR bio of an umpire who worked the first major-league games of Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Ernie Banks, Bill Mazeroski, and Walter Alston. He also, at some point in his career, shaved six years off his professional age. (Perhaps he, too, was challenged to adapt to being The Older Guy.)

So far I am only taking on the biographies of people who are long and safely dead, but at some point I’ll have to start doing some that involve actually contacting the subjects or their immediate descendants. Does that count as talking to strangers?

Fresh irrelevance for the new year.

I will once again do #walletcard in 2023, even though I am no longer on the sorts of social media platforms that most directly support it.

I’m sure my two readers remember the #walletcard tradition, but in case someone new happens by, here’s how it works:

You choose a sports trading card from your collection and put it in your wallet on January 1. As you travel throughout the year, you take it out and take pictures of it wherever you go. I still remember the guy on Twitter who went to Mardi Gras and talked a New Orleans cop into holding his walletcard for a photo; that was stylish.

At the end of the year, you then look back on where you’ve been and post a final shot of the much worn and beaten-down card. (For obvious reasons, the card you choose should be something you have two or three of, and something relatively low in value.)

At least, that’s how I do it. Other people do different things, like keeping one card in their wallet permanently rather than swapping it out. I like anointing a new card each year because it’s one less card in the binders, and because it gives me the opportunity to write something like this every Jan. 1.

I did this in 2015, and in 2019, and had a card lined up for 2020 before I got confined to my house along with everybody else. I’m sure the pandemic killed the walletcard idea for 2021 and 2022. We’ll see what impact it has on 2023, but for right now I feel optimistic about my ability to leave the house and go places.

Anyway, as I acquired cards over the past year, I gave thought to which of them might make a good 2023 walletcard.

I started by ruling out, hard and fast, cards from teams I don’t like. I don’t want to open my wallet every day and see a Yankee/Ranger/Padre, I thought, repeatedly. Sod that.

As I thought further, that idea began to turn itself around, until I ended up 180 degrees from where I began. The world, and my world in particular, could use more tolerance, and fewer immediate dismissals of people on the other side of the line — any line.

I might violently disagree with someone, or dislike their personal manner. But they’re not going away, and retreat into isolation is not really an option on my part. While I reserve the right to disagree with others, I shouldn’t embrace the strategy of turning my back on them.

So I came to think that having a Yankee or a Ranger or a Padre in my wallet might be a neatly symbolic reminder to be generous, and tolerant, and considerate, and open-minded. The world is full of Yankees and Rangers and Padres, though not all of them happen to wear uniforms.

All of which led me here:

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What we have here is a 1991 Leaf card — Card No. 52 in the set, and one of three in my collection — of New York Yankees relief pitcher Lee Guetterman. Guetterman was (and still is) a 6-foot-8 lefty, born in Chattanooga and raised in California, who played 11 seasons with five teams.

Along the way, he piled up a few minor distinctions. He is among the relatively small handful of players to appear with the Yankees and Mets in the same season (1992). He led the pitching staffs of the 1989 and 1990 Yankees in appearances, with 70 and 64 games respectively. He also led the Yanks in wins in 1990 with 11 out of the bullpen, in a season when none of their starting pitchers won more than nine.

(The Yanks in those seasons were a combined 141-182. If I’m going to put a Yankee in my wallet it’s going to be a Yankee from those sucktastic years of the late ’80s and early ’90s. I’m not open-minded enough to put Derek Jeter in my wallet — although, come to think of it, that would be a greater test of my tolerance.)

Off the field, Guetterman is apparently a devout Christian who opposes abortion, which are not beliefs I share. I didn’t know that when I picked his card … but now that I do, it only underlines the message of consideration and openness to others that I hope to remember every time I see his card.

My plan is to take pix of Mr. Guetterman whenever I go someplace interesting, and offload a couple of them every so often here on the blog. Just how interesting my destinations turn out to be in 2023 is TBD.

Read about my bagels, you hockey puck.

On New Year’s Eve you get to hear about my bagels.

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Some time ago I got a King Arthur Baking catalog with their 2022 Recipe of the Year, which they called Ultimate Sandwich Bagels. (What is a sandwich bagel? A bagel sized to make a manageable sandwich, as opposed to a big bomber of a sandwich, the sort that stops you dead after lunch.)

It took me almost all of 2022, but a week or two ago I got around to trying them. With the kids back from college, I have people to help me eat large batches of stuff again, which is good news as regards the batch of homemade toffee ice cream in the freezer.

Anyhow, the version of the recipe on the King Arthur website goes heavy on the perky twentysomething-cooking-writer bright-young-thingisms (“Boom! The egg packet.”)

But if you can get past those, the recipe makes some fine bagels. Even if you can’t be bothered to use barley malt syrup or bread flour.

They’re decently sized, too — from the description I was afraid they’d be two-bite jobs, but no.

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A couple of years ago my mom sent me a recipe for two-ingredient bagels, which I found interesting, filed, but never tried. This morning, still riding my homemade bagel high from the other week, I decided it was time.

“Two ingredients” is actually somewhere between four and six, depending on how you do it. And the end result doesn’t have quite the same chew and crumb as a real bagel — which makes sense, as these bagels are neither yeast-risen nor boiled.

(My younger son the aspiring New Yorker has decided they’re not really bagels, but rather something else … bialys, maybe?)

But the entire thing comes together in an hour (tops) from start to finish. If you decide at 11 am that a bagel sammich would hit the spot for lunch, you can have one at noon. The King Arthur recipe, in contrast, requires you to start the day before and nurse the dough through multiple rests and rises.

And the results of the “two”-ingredient recipe are quite good despite their inauthenticity. The recipe made eight “bagels,” or whatever you want to call them, and all but one are already in somebody’s belly.

(I could have left them in a few more minutes to brown them a bit more. Maybe next time.)

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The original recipe can be found here; I used a sort of simplified version that my mom sent. (I believe the original recipe calls for you to honk up the oven temperature for the last 10 minutes; I didn’t do that. Perhaps that would have browned the finished product.)

Oh, and the two (main) ingredients? Self-rising flour and Greek yogurt. Seriously. It works.

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Other things I like right now: Quiet weather … a long weekend … the Christmas lights coming down off the front of the house without my taking any disastrous falls off the ladder … and Mstislav Rostropovich and two other musicians playing the Largo movement of Shostakovich’s Trio No. 2 in E minor, audible right here.

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Happy New Year.