All posts by stilsongreene

Sandwich Design 101 – Drugstore Way

ham20and20cheese20sandwich

Eating out was a rarity when I was a kid. We had our meals at home  on the kitchen table; we used the big table only for Sunday Supper. For those that don’t know what supper is, well, it’s now dinner. We had breakfast, dinner, supper; somewhere along the way the word lunch became dinner and dinner became supper. In my house we did our best to have all four. The word supper remained the vernacular of my grandparents.

Going to town was a big deal when I was a very young boy. Leesburg (Virginia) was different then; it was the center of the universe. It had grocery stores, a Five & Ten Shop, pharmacies, hardware stores, clothing shops, movie theater, restaurants plus all the professionals such as doctors, lawyers and shoemakers. It was the mall of my childhood and integral to a way of life now long past.

I was probably 4 or 5 when I went with my Mom downtown one day, most likely for a doctor’s appointment or other such thing. Usually I stayed home with my Grandfather when Mom went to town. She would go with either my Grandmother or my beloved Aunt Ann because Mother didn’t drive, that was a skill she finally learned in her middle fifties. I guess Grandaddy was busy or pretended to be because he wanted a break from me following him around from chore to chore, but it was more likely he had chickens to kill for supper. I didn’t know that we raised our chickens for food then; I thought that when Daisy or Cluckles came up missing they just ran away to another henhouse or were out visiting friends. The truth hit me one day when Grandaddy made me hold Henrietta down on the block as he did the deed; I was shocked and tearful, he just turned and said, in a sad wise voice, “I thought it’s about time you knew.” Sunday Supper wasn’t the same for awhile.

On that trip downtown my Mom and I went to Edwards Drugstore, I’m guessing she had to wait for a prescription to be filled. So we waited in a booth in the soda fountain-dining room section of the store. Usually we sat at the counter and on a rare occasion I could order a Vanilla Coke, but we didn’t ever sit in a booth. On this glorious day we did, and when the waitress came over for our order, my Mom ordered two Cokes and two ham and cheese sandwiches on white toast. She still orders that today when she goes to lunch. It’s important to remember that my sandwich eating history at that time was only written by my Mom and my Grandmother, and they served it the only way that I thought God in his wisdom would have a sandwich made – cut straight across the middle making two symmetrical rectangles.

When the sandwiches arrived that day they were cut diagonally. What the hell? I just stared at my sandwich, I had no intention of putting that in my mouth. My Mom noticing my wide eyed fear asked what was wrong. Looking at those pointed sharp ends of toasted bread they became swords, razor sharp. When I told Mom that I couldn’t bite it because it would cut me, she lifted my sandwich, took a small bite to prove that it was safe and said that it was “drugstore cut.” I don’t think I ever enjoyed a sandwich more; that small memory of sharing between my mother and I became ingrained in our DNA, intrinsic in our relationship from that second forward.

My mother is 83 now, and on the occasion she makes me a sandwich in her kitchen she will hold the knife above the bread and its stuffing and ask me as she has from that special moment on, “regular or drugstore.”

My Five and Why.

5

I was asked the other day what are my favorite albums? I really couldn’t answer because I have so many, but I was pressed and I gave an answer. Looking back on it, and having time to ponder, I’ve picked the five that I would have to keep. The five you could only listen to for the rest-of -your-life-five.  I made some parameters: only one from any artist/band, no live albums, no greatest hits and no various collections (no K-tel allowed baby).

1. Rubber Soul – The Beatles. No surprise I’m sure, they are intrinsic to my DNA, picking one was almost impossible, but I listen to Rubber Soul at least once a week, how could I not ever hear it again.

2. The Band (The Brown Album) – The Band – A seminal work for me, easing out Music From Big Pink by a guitar string. This album changed the way I heard and thought about music and it’s rich American heritage. Through this piece of work I discovered Bob Dylan, the blues, country and western, gospel and much more. It forked the road for me from British/American pop to another darker less traveled path.

3. Into the Music – Van Morrison. I can’t imagine never hearing Van’s voice again, and this work shines vocally. In his grunts and swoons I can hear Elvis, Jackie Wilson, Tom Waits, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, Frank Sinatra and many more. I chose this for the vocalists I love, with Van at the top of the heap.

4. Broken Moon – Lowen & Navarro. I cannot put into words how I feel about this album, it has healed me many times. I think Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro are two of the best songwriters, singers and performers I have ever had the pleasure to know. I have given this album to friends almost as much as I have given them Rubber Soul;  it’s that good and that important to me. Lowen and Navarro are the brave working troubadours, carrying on a time honored tradition of  songwriting and truth. And brave may be too weak a word.

5. Honky Tonk Heroes – Waylon Jennings. The greatest country album by one of the greatest country artists. The songs of Billy Joe Shafer brought to stunning life by a crackerjack band and a soulful singer. But it’s on the list for more than that, this album is a chapter of my life in 1973-1975 that remains as some of the best years I had as a young man and with the best brothers- in-arms a friend could ask for… and also because of Lakeside Amusement Park, three fingered whiskey and wiiiiiiild buffaloes.

So there’s my five and why, now you do the same, post yours in the comments below and let’s listen to what your life is like.

Batman and Me, 30 Years On.

old-batman-logo

Last week a Detective Comics No.27, in good condition, published in 1939 sold at auction for $1,075,500.00. The reason the price was so astronomical? Detective Comics No. 27 was the first appearance of Batman.

As high as that number is, Batman is worth much more than that to me. Batman gave me a career.

The first thing my parents remember me drawing was Batman, the first thing I remember drawing was Batman. If you went to grade school with me, the first thing you probably remember me drawing was Batman.

I got caught up in comics and superheroes because of the Caped Crusader. The mixture of line, color and splashes of type fascinated me. The design of how a page flowed, the use of different fonts, the mix of visuals and the printed word had a profound impact on how I saw things graphically.

Then, I thought it was just cool. I learned all the artists by name: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Wally Wood, Gil Kane, Gene Colan and too many more to mention. I could, and still can, tell you not only who drew the art, but who inked , colored and lettered the comic just by seeing just one panel of  it. Later my tastes grew to include Rembrandt, Leonardo, Durer and others as my favorite artists.

I knew I wanted to be an artist very early on, I also knew that being a comic book artist wasn’t for me. Why? I can’t draw vehicles, not great with machinery rendering, had no problem drawing Batman, the Batmobile is a different story.

So illustration and graphic design became my passion in college. I could still use my skill as an artist but also use my love of type and layout and how it communicates to an audience. Don’t get me wrong, I still had the burning desire to paint and live at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City and eventually get discovered by some snooty gallery and become famous… but hey, I’m a Greene, I gotta eat.

So this year marks my 30th year in business as Stilson Greene Graphic Design & Illustration, I look back and forward and am thankful for my family, friends and clients who believed and still believe in me. I do continue to paint and do art for myself, and am fortunate to have a gallery that shows my work, but my CAREER is using images and type and layout to communicate messages and feelings, and to that, all I can say is…”Thanks Batman.”

My Back Pages

The Wind in the Willows

Santa in his/her infinite wisdom presented me with the “New Annotated Wind in the Willows” for being a nice boy during last year. I have this book in a myriad of editions designed and illustrated by a myriad of artists. This huge volume sums them up with footnotes and insights to the time, place and circumstances of the author, Kenneth Grahame.

I discovered “Wind in the Willows” in Mrs. Ector’s 5th grade class at Leesburg Elementary School. She, noticing my constant doodles of Batman and Hulk, and my fevered reading of  Robert McCloskey’s brilliantly written and drawn, “Homer Price” (McCloskey was so much more than just “Make Way for Ducklings”, dammit), handed me a small tattered green-clothed book. The cover had gold embossed letters and a illustration of wildlife creatures looking up at a huge centaur-looking fellow playing a flute; it was my first look at “Wind in the Willows.”

In it was a world inhabited by Moles, Water Rats, Badgers and Toads all anthropomorphised with dandy vests, shoes, hats, hell, even motor cars. This wasn’t new, growing up on Huckleberry Hound and Quickdraw McGraw, this was a universe known to all kids. But reading their adventures and how they seamlessly interacted with “human” society and taking on the mores of the society was a mind blowing experience. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that I even knew what “mores”  were as a 10 year old boy occupied with The 3 Stooges, comic books and English rock and roll, but even then, these characters had me.

The shy to courageous Mole, the steady loyal Rat, brave, wise and stoic Badger and the wild, gregarious, iresponsible Toad (of Toad Hall), all taught me lessons of friendship, responsibility and courtesy I still try to hold on to today. And the most mysterious character of all I never grasped until later readings, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. His role of spiritual protector and the river-maker of all things natural and pure in a world of  hopelesness and loss rings true in all our lives.

So whatever book holds a beloved spot in your soul from childhood, I ask you to rediscover it today, read and view it with your older eyes and let it take you to new journeys you thought long gone.

 

Where the Wild Things Are, a small review

image0032

Where the wild things are, were  in the movie theater with me. I never saw such bad behavior and heard such a racket, well… since I was doing it at the Tally Ho all those years ago. But I will tell you one thing different, there were more cell phone screens lit up during the movie than at an encore at a Jonas Brothers concert.

The movie, I loved it, embraced every second of it. BUT it’s not a kid’s movie, it’s a movie for the kids we used to be.

Rated: PG

Bob Dylan Meets Santa Claus And Feeds The Hungry

dylanchristmas500

I’ve listened to the new Bob Dylan CD “Christmas in the Heart” a few times now and it’s wonderful. The arrangements are played totally straight, to the point when “Here Comes Santa Claus” starts you almost expect Paul Anka to start singing; but no, it’s Bob. It’s Bob at his croaky-I drink gravel milkshakes- best. The joy of this fun and groovy album is the contrast of styles, the background vocals are like the Jordanaires and Andrew Sisters, silky smooth and sweet, Bob adds the salt, large rough chunks of salt. Listen, to hear Bob Dylan sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” much less “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is a complete gas, something as a life-long fan I thought beyond the pale, yet here it is.

51OdoGEh89L

And it’s all for a good cause, in a commitment to ending hunger, all of Bob’s U.S. current and future royalties from sales of “Christmas In The Heart” will be donated in perpetuity to Feeding America, guaranteeing that more than four million meals will be provided to over 1.4 million people in need in this country during this year’s holiday season.

The CD is like a crazy but favorite Uncle taking over an Andy Williams’ Christmas album recording session. It’s not for everybody but it should be. Thanks Bob, I can’t wait to clear the house this Holiday Season as I play you on 10. Now if only Tom Waits would follow your lead.

Stuff a stocking with Bob.

John Lennon, 69 and Aliens

john lennon ufos aliens ets greys (Copy)

On October 9, 1940, John Winston Ono Lennon was born, he would’ve been 69 today. Hard to believe. It’s also hard for me to believe that I learned something very cool today, how it escaped my Beatle/Lennon knowledge is, to be honest, dumbfounding. Here it is:

On Febuary 4th, 2008,  NASA broadcast from their giant antenna a Lennon/McCartney song, aptly titled “Across The Universe”. It was beamed into deepest space, sent to Polaris the North Star. The song is traveling at the speed of light and will take 431 years to reach its destination, 2.5 quadrillion miles away.

It’s comforting to know that when Klaatu eventually arrives he’ll already be a Beatle fan.

Works Progress Administration and Tastee Freez

Tastee-Freez-1 WPA_Main_Image1

I thought I would share two good things that I’ve discovered recently, first up the self titled CD Works Progress Administration (WPA). This group is what we would once label a “supergroup”, but most of today’s music listeners never read a CD package to see who is playing or singing, much less writing the songs. That’s an impossible task if you download your music, especially song by song. I love albums, to me they’re like books with chapters, each one an integral part of the story leading to a conclusion. When I think of my favorite music, I think in terms of albums not singles. I admit it, I am a geezer dinosaur holding on to an eroding bastion of my youth.

But every once in a while as I hold on to that decaying rope I discover something that makes my grip tighter and WPA is one of those discoveries. WPA is made up of Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sproket and solo work), Sean and Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek), Luke Bella (Tony Douglas Band, Lyle Lovett Band), Belmont Tench (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), Greg Leisz (Joni Mitchell, Bill Frisell), Pete Thomas and Davey Faragher (Elvis Costello). That’s a distinguished group, not only of diverse ages but diverse musical genres; you have alternative rock, bluegrass, jazz, country, and more, all mingling into a audio stew pot of greatness.

The songs are fantastic, full of lyrical complexity and lovely melodies; and with four lead vocalists taking turns on lead and harmonies, the sound is  fresh every listen.  The first track “Always Have My Love” is a good summation of what is to follow. The song “Not Sure” is as lovely a love song I’ve heard in a long time. This is the best new music I’ve bought this year, just wanted to share it so it’s not overlooked. I’ll post the website so you can check out some samples. It’s also available at Amazon. Just get the damn thing, you’ll thank me.

Secondly, Tastee Freez has reopened in Berryville, Virginia. It’s in a new shiny space right on Main Street. Tastee Freez is one of my Mom’s favorite places to eat, always has been. So when I told her it was open she said she would love to go, she missed their BBQ sandwiches. Well, when your 81 year old mother wistfully wants a BBQ sandwich from Tastee Freez, by God you take her to Tastee Freez.

I did and she loved it, I realized as I sat there eating my chili slaw dog, that it wasn’t just the taste of BBQ, it was a taste of her life so far. She remembered taking my brother and sister and me to the Tastee Freez in Leesburg long ago, the times we brought one home to her as we were out cruising, and the times she and Dad would ride over to the old one in Berryville and have lunch. The smile on her face was one I haven’t seen for long time, it was more than a BBQ sandwich,  it was magic BBQ sandwich made in Mr. Peabody’s Time Machine.

Life is funny and mysterious, and sometimes the answers can be found in a Tastee Freez.

Note: The Tastee Freez in Berryville has since closed, I don’t know where you can go get a Big T now, but you can get WPA here.

You Say You Want A Revelation…The Beatles Remasterd.

the-beatles

For those not wanting to read the whole flaming pie, and just want to know if the remastered CDs are worth it? The answer is absolutely, but if you already have all The Beatles you want, and you mainly listen to your iPod and you are going to take the new stuff, pop it in your computer, then place it into iTunes, well, I’d say no. In order to hear the full glory of this marvelous collection, it needs to played on a stereo system, not through a compressed digital link. Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPod, but it’s a snapshot of music compared to uncompressed full sound.

Still there? Let the Magical Mystery Tour begin.

I have the whole remastered catalog, but I’ll just write about the stereo versions. I’ll break them down to the three stages of The Beatles span, first up:

The Fab Years : Please, Please Me/With The Beatles/A Hard Day’s Night/Beatles For Sale/Help

Most of this work was done live in the studio and listening to it you will feel as if the Fabs are in the room with you. The sound is so pristine that you hear the friction of the strings, the crack of the snare and, for the first time for me, the separation of the gorgeous 3-part harmonies. You will ache for John’s vocal chords as he shreds them on a visceral take of  Twist and Shout, the stunning beauty of  If I Fell, the complete joy of that reverberating chord that introduces Hard Day’s Night.Honestly, I felt like that young kid again discovering rock and roll on my Sears record payer, grabbing onto something that was totally foreign to my family, something I could call mine, that a generation called and still calls  “ours”! The Fab years is like dusting off an old sepia photograph of a dear friend and realizing for the first time,  it’s in color.

The Middle Ages: Rubber Soul/Revolver/Sgt. Pepper/ Magical Mystery Tour

Just listen to Nowhere Man, the vocals sublime with a new depth of sound, a guitar solo that to this day remains one of my favorites. The remastering of Rubber Soul is one of the jewels in the crown of this collection, the other being Revolver. Eleanor Rigby, Tomorrow Never Knows and Taxman sound like different versions, the sound is that good. On this record, Ringo and Paul shine; the bass is punched up and the drums are now in the front of the mix, not behind like a tin set. (As a matter of fact the biggest winner in this whole remastering thing is Ringo, his fills and clockwork back beat is such a crucial aspect of The Beatles’ sound you wonder how he can ever be under rated again.) Sgt. Pepper is a sonic boom right from “It was 20 years ago today”” to the masterpiece A Day In The Life. I don’t have to tell you what a thrill it is to hear this work of art shiny and new. A note, the trumpets on Good Morning will knock you out! Roll out! Magical Mystery Tour’s title track sounds great but the true gems here are Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane, it sounds like a whole new palette. This is Lennon and McCartney at their best. Here’s the true test of the remastered CDs, for years, at the fade out of Strawberry Fields, it was thought that John said “I buried Paul” here, very clearly, you hear the true words, “cranberry sauce”. Yep the sound is that good.

The Final Acts: The Beatles (The White Album)/ Yellow Submarine/Abbey Road/ Let it Be

Wanna know what a jet sounds like taking off in your house, now you can as The White Album blasts you into the group’s most complex and challenging work. The new sound here is marvelous, with channel separation and fading left to right so crisp it’s startling. Back in the USSR never sounded like this before, nor has Savoy Truffle, they both smack you with sound. Conversely Goodnight and Julia never sounded so wistful and heartbreaking. As John sings “When I cannot sing my heat, I can only speak my mind” you feel his pain of loss, not only for his mother but for a band on the edge of dissolving. Yellow Submarine also sounds great, Bulldog now punches through the speakers as if you were in the mixing room with Mr. Martin. Speaking of Mr. Martin, half of this album is comprised of his instrumental orchestral work from the titled film, and it’s beautiful. Abbey Road *sigh*, Something sounds fantastic, it really is George’s masterpiece. But it’s The Suite (side two) that shines. You can hear George’s fingers on the strings as Here Come the Sun starts, the harmonies on Because are astonishing, you actually hear the single voices in the blend, for those you don’t believe that The Beatles had three of the best singers ever to grace one band, here’s the proof. Golden Slumbers is a audio highlight of this brilliant piece of music, and though released before Let it Be, Abbey Road was the last time all four of the lads were in the studio together, it remains the ultimate rock swan song. Let it Be was to be a “get back to basics” for the band, recorded after the acrimonious sessions of  The White Album, Paul thought that a more live recording process would do them good. The results were a mixed bag, and the project was scrapped, but the tapes were eventually given to Phil Spector to work with.  Let it Be was released after Abbey Road at that time the breakup was on. The result was “The Beatles meet the wall of sound”, and though I love how this album sounds, and it sounds unbelievable now, I prefer the stripped down versions found on Let it Be Naked released a few years ago. But any album with songs like Let it Be, Long and Winding Road, Two of Us and Across the Universe cannot be considered anything but phenomenal, and the remastered version is just that.

Lastly the final CD in the remastered set is Past Masters, it contains the Beatle singles that didn’t appear on the albums, and it’s great. The new sound of Hey Jude brings out the beauty of the piano and the masterful harmony that both John and George contribute. It also has one of my favorite Beatle songs Yes It Is and it sounds great too, but the prize of this set is the remastered Paperback Writer; the bass backhands you like a mad uncle, and the song thumps along powered by a great rock band loaded with great singers. This song sums up what the remastered set is all about: great music and memories that have collected in your heart and soul, brought back for you to revel in today and hopefully pass on to a new generation. This is music magic played and sung by flesh and blood, not manufactured by bytes and programs. It really is the soundtrack of our lives…yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Here’s a direct link to The Beatles Remastered Box Set at Amazon.

I miss Bela Lugosi

28

I grew up a Universal Monster kid, I loved and still love those black and white thrillers with Boris Karloff, Dwight Frye, Lon Chaney, Jr. and many more. I devoured the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland monthly, looking at Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. But it was Bela Lugosi’s performance of Dracula that had the biggest impact. His accent, his stiff movement and his piercing eyes captured the undead nobleman and forever became the benchmark of Bram Stoker’s celluloid Count. Thus the vampire was raised into modern cinema, a creature of the night, using his powers to suck the blood of the living and, in some instances, add more members to his fanged flock. And that’s the way it was, Christopher Lee and other bearers of the Dracula crest were creatures to be feared, created to scare the beegeezus of children and adults alike…until lately.

Now vampires are portrayed as brooding sullen romantics, who even in daylight, walk among us and become anti-heroes and young girl’s sexual fantasies. Blech, give me the redeyed, fanged devil scrathing outside the window, waiting to sneak into the home and lay waste on the unsuspecting. Give me the old school monster that sunlight destroyed not make his skin sparkle like diamonds. Give me a Dracula who would lay bloody havoc on a slumber party, not brood in the corner about why he shouldn’t be there, thus endearing himself as the new bad boy girls fall for. It was a leather jacket and a convertible, now it is pale skin, an aversion to solid food and a goth hairdo making the girls a twitter.

So yes, I miss Bela and his brothers and sisters, his children of the night and the things of nightnares. Now vampires don’t take you in bed, they’re more interested in taking you to bed… and tucking you in.