A note from Rommie:
Mike O'Neill Memorial Scholarships
Since the passing of our former co-worker Mike O'Neill last week, friends of his have expressed online how he encouraged them in their own times of trouble to pursue playing music to uplift them.
Other musicians have remembered fondly how he shared the stage with them at venues around the area. Many other friends say he opened their eyes to music they may never have otherwise heard by making CD's for them.
He devoted his life to the pursuit of music and sharing his songwriting gifts with other people.
We want to memorialize him in a way that we feel he would have appreciated through music so we are establishing the Mike O'Neill Memorial Scholarships for the Rock School at the Patel Conservatory, the educational section of the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in Tampa.
Through these scholarships, some young people who cannot afford to pursue their musical dreams of playing rock 'n' roll will now be able to get professional lessons and the chance to record in a real studio. The rock school tuition is about $400, so we're hoping to send a number of kids to the school. Mike's scholarship fund will be managed by the performing arts center, and all money collected will go directly to educating music students.
For each person who makes a donation, the center will send a notice to Mike's family and an acknowledgement to you the donor, so you'll know your donation is in the right hands.
To learn more about the school, go to www.patelconservatory.org.
To make a donation:
Send checks to Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Development Department, P.O. Box 518, Tampa FL 33601. Make them payable to the performing arts center, and be sure to note that the money goes to the Rock School in memory of Mike O'Neill.
We put together a little gallery of our exploits, too.
My favorite surprise: The corn ice cream at Coco Ram's. Delicious.
This thing still on?
The management of Side Salad sincerely appreciates your patience at the recent rash of technical problems.
It's a funny thing; When you sign up with a website host, they tell you that there's a limit to the amount of space and bandwidth you can have.
Turns out they weren't kidding.
After almost a month, I've finally figured this out and have boosted the parameters of both for your reading pleasure.
Of course, now I have no one to read the site...
Oh, the cool and deep waters of irony.
You may now go back to your regularly scheduled Salad.
This is the "official" memorial event for Mike O'Neill, organized and hosted by his good friend Ed Lowery and "sponsored" by Mike's family, who will be in attendance. Funeral and/or cremation services will be out of town and attended by family and very close friends alone, so this is your only chance to pay your respects to our departed friend.
And what if he was the day shift manager for a grocery store?
...we have a problem.
Just a note to let you know that I've been having problems with my Movable Type blogging software. Apparently the site's been hacked or my server has a virus or something. It's not displaying the entire contents of my blog and, well... it's all so boring.
My point is, I'm sorry for the intermittent blogging, but I'm having to fight through my own software to bring you the Salad.
I hope to fix things pronto.
Anyone know of someone with Movable Type experience?
Here's something you don't see every day: a vintage photo of an airplane made entirely with of cigars and a flight attendant whose miniskirt jumper, go-go boots and propeller-hat are also made of tobacco products.
My friend and colleague Karen Long found this one and knew that, as a cigar lover and an appreciator of all vintage photos with weird aspects to them, it was just my speed.
Well, well, well. Look at which ex-con pupae just shed her ankle-bracelet coccoon to become a butterfly again:
Lee Brian Schrager, Founder and Director of the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Food & Wine magazine, announced today that multi-media lifestyle entrepreneur, Martha Stewart, will receive the Festival's Lifetime Achievement Award.
On Sunday, February 25, at the Festival's Tribute Brunch, Stewart will be honored for being a visionary in the multi-media lifestyle arena. The Festival will also pay tribute to world renowned winemakers Robert and Peter Mondavi with the Southern Wine & Spirits of America Lifetime Achievement Award and Florida International University will also recognize a soon-to-be named honoree with the Michael E. Hurst Distinguished Hospitality Leaders Award.
"We are thrilled and honored to be welcoming a true pioneer in the world of cooking, decorating and entertaining," said Schrager. "Martha Stewart is the ultimate lifestyle guru. We are elated that she has taken time out from her busy schedule to join us on the beach for the sixth year of the festival."
Oh, she's a pioneer alright.
Last year they honored culinary legend Maida Heatter and Baron Eric de Rothschild. No offense to Martha - after all, she has expertly browbeat people with a condescending brand that enforces the idea that everything you're now enjoying is somehow pedestrian and third-class compared to her tastes - but she's not worthy to hold their culinary jock straps.
Where is Spy magazine when we need its nuclear-hot radioactive satiric surface-to-Martha missiles most?
Which reminds me, I never completed my Martha Stewart paper doll.
As expected, we had a large time on the Fourth here in Valrico, so much so that I think I woke the next morning with pyrotechnic hangover. At last count, I think we had 39 people gathered in our little corner of the neighborhood. And I was the only one to take a minor injury. Not bad odds, really.
To see all the photos from the fun afternoon and evening, click here.
For everyone working on America's Birthday with someone who annoys the piss out of you - and those people's pets...
... this video is for you.
Fourth of July is kind of a big deal in our neighborhood. (No, that's not my neighborhood in the photo above. It's just a random car I photographed.)
The most elaborate took place two years ago, when my neighbors Drew and Mike and their families were still in the neighborhood. Drew was really the catalyst for getting everyone together the year before. In 2004, though, we really took it to another level. Injured offspring. Petrified pets. Roman Candle duels at 50 paces. Ritual sacrifice. You name it.
Last year, Drew and Mike and their families moved away right before Fourth of July. We had great fun with our new neighbors, but I failed to recognize the holes that I had to fill. I underbought on pyrotechnics and it lacked a certain life-threatening quality. I felt like I let my new neighbors down.
As I wrote earlier, that won't be the situation this year. We've pooled our resources and gone for more bang instead of flash.
But we'll still miss our friends and wish them all the best. We wouldn't be having the steroid-choked, beer-soaked grillfest sit-out we're planning today (predicted possible typhoon-like weather notwithstanding) if it wasn't for you guys. Every fuse we light will be in your honor.
I've had some memorable Fourths in my life. I remember growing up in Pass-a-Grille, I could sit on the sand in St. Pete Beach and watch the fireworks in the distance up the beaches in Treasure Island and Clearwater.
I remember one year when I was about 7 or 8, my dad took me by himself to sit next to the Corey Causeway between South Pasadena and St. Pete Beach to sit on the St. Augustine grass in front of Misner Marine to see the fireworks launched behind city hall. My mom was in the hospital with debilitating migraines that year. I'll always remember how much I missed her being there.
I remember the year we took the family boat from Gulfport to downtown St. Petersburg at dusk to anchor off the seawall as fireworks went off above our head. It seemed like every other boater was loaded that night. There were so many boats that people kept running over each other's anchor line and cursing each other. But what I remember is the way the old Skyway Bridge looked as we went under the center span at night on our way back to the marina as my father searched for channel markers with his spotlight.
I remember the Fourth of July I spent in Anchorage three weeks before I flew home to get married. The big deal back then was to go to the baseball doubleheader between the summer minor league Anchorage Bucs and the Anchorage Glacier Pilots at Mulcahy Stadium. The game started at about 8 and fireworks were shot off after the game.
At about 11:30 p.m.
In broad daylight in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
I learned later that the bigtime fireworks in Anchorage happened in February during Fur Rendezvous. Who knew?
The Bucs and Glacier Pilots play a doubleheader again today. The first game is at 6 p.m. with 7 innings and the second game has 9 innings. Fireworks follow the second game.
The past couple years, I've posted some fairly stupid, corny and mushy stuff on the Fourth about the freedoms we enjoy. Or at least the ones I enjoy. I know not everyone enjoys the freedoms I swim around with every day.
This year, no better example of the freedom we enjoy is this exchange I saw this morning in my e-mail.
First was a note from my friend Scott, a reporter who covers business on Wall Street. He passed along this semi-quasi-sort-of-famous quotation to a group of his friends in an e-mail blast:
"In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man—these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We cannot continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth and their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction cannot lay claim to progress."
— Calvin Coolidge
To which Steve, a member of the e-mail chain, replied:
We now know why he was liked for being silent.
Hard to beat that back-and-forth for the definition of freedom.
Hope yours is as fun as ours looks to be tonight.
A couple of weeks ago, I drove past the corner of Bloomingdale and U.S. 301 on a Saturday. We were driving some friends from out of town to the Florida Aquarium when we saw a guy wearing a Spider-Man costume and waving to traffic.
I really wanted to stop and talk to the guy, but we had places to be.
Long story short, while Patrick and I were on our way home from getting fireworks, I finally tracked him down on Saturday to the corner of Parsons Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard in Brandon. He was out in front of a Texaco in a small patch of the gas station's parking lot, taking photos with children and signing autographs.
This is Hector Quinones. He's a 37-year-old physical therapist and car buff from Riverview.
A couple years ago, he spent $7,000 to mack out his car in Spider-Man motif. His wife went online to buy him a Spidey costume so he could wear it to car shows.
It was such a big hit that he decided to use the get-up to raise money after a friend who has four children got diabetes and couldn't work. He poses for photos for a small donation and gives the money to his friend as well as to autism charities. His 10-year-old son Brian has autism. His other son, Angel, 5, has ADHD.
Every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3, Quinones poses for photos as a friend snaps the shots and prints them on a portable printer.
In just two hours on Saturday, he had already made $240.
This 5-year-old boy named Jonny stood in awe as Quinones posed with him.
Quinones signs autographs to each child and includes them with the photo.
This 2-year-old, whose name was Nolan, wasn't sure what to make of it all. He was almost as happy to watch the traffic go by as he was to take a photo with Spider-Man.
Lost in all the hoopla is that Quinones has one tricked-out ride. That back square where the tag usually goes? That's a flat-panel TV screen.
The amount of detail inside the car is amazing. If you didn't know there was a cartoon on the side, you'd be pretty impressed at the styling of the interior.
Every photo is enclosed in a special paper frame that Quinones has customized as well.
As some might remember, I have a special fondness for Spidey. I grew up reading Spider-Man comic books and, well, I sort of fell for this statue I saw in New Orleans at a Sharper Image a few years back:
I believe redemption is truly at hand.
My neighbor Patrick and I drove up to the Phantom Fireworks on Fowler Avenue on Saturday to get us some boom-booms.
Didn't this used to be a Denny's? Maybe it was Pier 1.
Ah, the two-fer. Almost makes it seem like you're stealing from the company. Up until you realize how ridiculously overpriced fireworks are.
And you've gotta love the names on some of these things.
Chaos? Really? I think that's overstating this device's power just a bit.
In mathematics and physics, "chaos theory" describes the behavior of certain nonlinear dynamical systems that under certain conditions exhibit a phenomenon known as chaos. Among the characteristics of chaotic systems, is sensitivity to initial conditions (popularly referred to as the butterfly effect). As a result of this sensitivity, the behavior of systems that exhibit chaos appears to be random, even though the system is deterministic in the sense that it is well defined and contains no random parameters. Examples of such systems include the atmosphere, the solar system, plate tectonics, turbulent fluids, economics, and population growth.
Unless I experience some turbulent fluids in my shorts, I'd say this explosive device falls short of its billing.
Wasn't this guy on the boxes of Godfather's Pizza?
This was Joshua Bell of Zephyrhills. He and his buds were tipping the cart at more than $500. They were planning on lighting them off Saturday night.
In the end, we maxed out at $286.67, with tax. After a certain amount, they give you some bonus stuff, so we got free rockets, a repeater named Mid-Air Mayhem and a t-shirt.
We're gonna get our boom on. In a big way.
You never know when the moments that change your life are going to occur.
There are the predictable moments - the birth of a child, meeting the woman you marry. Then there are the smaller ones that are imperceptible. Mine happened in February.
I was at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (now known less economically as the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Wine & Food Magazine). I was attending a screening at the Wolfsonian Museum of "Anthony Bourdain: Decoding Ferran Adria" being held in honor of the great Spanish chef who constantly experiments with food in a lab. It's all very simple and yet futuristic.
As the film progressed, I shared Bourdain's amazement for the way Adria was mixing science and food. Some of it was supposed to be food - gigantic spoon of carrot froth as one course in a 32-stage meal, anyone? - but he had messed with the properties so radically, many of the dishes were almost unclassifiable. Sure, they were edible, but just because something's edible after having 2,000 volts run through it doesn't make it food. Or, at least, it doesn't make it a restaurant entree. Or does it?
Anyway, the film so altered my compass radically on what the frontiers of food actually looked like, I hunted everywhere to find the film on DVD so I could show it to friends and co-workers, to no avail.
I interviewed Bourdain some months later for a story and was told that the film would be airing on Travel Channel this summer.
That day is finally here.
I just saw the show will broadcast at 10 p.m. Monday and at 1 a.m. Tuesday.
Here's how the channel describes the show:
New York City chef/author Anthony Bourdain is invited to film in the research laboratory of Ferran Adria, the most controversial and imitated chef in the world--chef/owner of El Bulli, voted "World's Best" by Restaurant Magazine.
The production company that made the film, ZeroPointZero, does a little better job selling the movie:
In the most historically important, visually dazzling, mind blowing one-hour special, Anthony Bourdain gets permission to film in the secret research laboratory of Ferran Adria, the most controversial and imitated chef in the world—chef/owner of El Bulli, voted “World's Best” by Restaurant Magazine--and the most visited by chefs on sabbatical.
The lab, an ultra modern, Dr. No-like facility with sliding walls, backlit ingredients, latest equipment and a full staff of devotees is tucked away inside a vast, renaissance-era palace in the old section of Barcelona, Spain. Ferran Adria and his chefs close the El Bulli restaurant for SIX MONTHS out of every year to work on new concepts, flavor combinations, ambience enhancers, and "found objects" for inspiration. Anthony Bourdain tracks Ferran’s process from lab to a once-in-a-lifetime meal at El Bulli restaurant. Anthony gets a unique look inside the hardest reservation on earth--enjoying a high-concept, surrealist, haute cuisine meal of unparalleled creativity and striking visual appearance.
Ferran Adria, an enormously charismatic, energetic and creative genius is seen at work. Words simply cannot describe the wonder or the strangeness; the exotic, alien and fabulous nature of what Adria does with - and to - food.
The show ends at Adria’s favorite little hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Rafa’s, in Roses, Spain as Anthony attempts to discover "where it came from", to seek an explanation, a source for Adria's inspiration. The importance, the "gaze in wonder" factor, the sheer fabulousness of Adria's food--and his unique approach to making it (cool, quiet, comfortable conditions, little use of gas or flame, laboratory conditions, a deliberate strategy of breaking all known rules) makes this program unlike any other.
Do me a favor and set aside times to watch it. Even if you're only lukewarm on food, it's still an amazing documentary.
And if you missed it and want to see it, get it on Amazon.
Maybe it will change your life, too.
A little more than a year ago, my friend Rommie and I followed a tip that led us to Frank's Fast and Best Sandwich Shop.
We experienced the wonder that is the Monster Cheeseburger and found a near-holy enlightenment.
On Friday we took co-workers David and John to see the wonder for themselves.
They were not disappointed. Especially not by the burgers, which were bigger than their heads.
To see a Flickr gallery with photos from the excursion, click here.
If the blogging has been a bit intermittent this week, it's because I've again been busy writing words for The Man.
Today, I had a story about the cooks who grill behind the haulers at NASCAR events like tonight's Pepsi 400 race at the Daytona International Speedway. On Wednesday, I had a three-story package on NASCAR and food, including interviews with chef Mario Batali and "Big John" Youk about their respective NASCAR cookbooks, and with former driver and now race team owner Richard Childress about his North Carolina-grown wine.
Last week, I had a story on choosing the right glass to enhance your enjoyment of wine. (I know, I know. You probably just guzzle from the bottle like I do.) And I did a story about a champagne named POP that is aimed at younger drinkers who were weaned on soft drinks as kids.
Other than that, I didn't really do that much.