Chili Quest Vol. 7 - Price Hill Chili

This is perhaps the Quest that took the most courage. Delving through the peaks and valleys of East Price Hill and beyond the Queen Blvd. Parkway. It was actually an amazing cruise through a half-thriving neighborhood and half-American ruins -- magnificent homes, pre-1900s, gone to spoil. I'm imagining places like Cleveland and Cincinnati are only second to Detroit in this display of abandonment?

Once up the actual hill, it was working class, stuck in 1978. There, Price Hill Chili and the adjacent Golden Fleece Lounge (both founded in 1962) looked an neighborhood institution. Both spaces likely overflowing on Friday nights.

We chose to dine in the smaller, "original," parlour. It was your typical counter, some worn booths, a blow-up pic of the Ol' Price Hill incline -- and above all else, it was clean, quick, and friendly (how we like our parlours here). Nothing, besides perhaps Pleasant Ridge, could top the authenticity of this Cincinnati experience. The charm and comfort gives it points on my scorecard. But the chili (where the proof resides) was completely lacking. J. Duane ordered a cup of chili, on the side. This was a strategy I've never exercised and here it fortified my instinct that Price Hill is average. There was really no distinct flavor and the consistency was Skyline style, almost too thin. Still, it wasn't fruitless, as the atmosphere added a bumper of resonance while I'm here thinking back. That stuff counts.

So -- we've got two more quests to go. And since it looks like I'll see at least one playoff game. I'm bound to reach Blue Ash and Empress (where? I don't know? need help here) before we get too deep in autumn.

A Day With Peter Edward Rose Revisited

Regardless of your view of Peter Edward Rose, this hit, 4192, was immortal. Something we will never see again in our lifetime. Something I witnessed at nine years old, when my father had an extra ticket and decided to take his son. I sat with my Uncle Hero, up in the Green Seats in deep centerfield. They always talk about how long the standing ovation lasted (over ten minutes) and I remember it feeling like forever. Even though Riverfront Stadium is long gone, and Pete Rose is shunned from Major League Baseball (gambling had nothing to do with his hits) -- I still regard this as one of the defining moments in my life. It made me love baseball more than most other things. Made it a religion. Devout.

Coincidence and Conspiracy riddle the date. September 11th, 1985. Another shadow that looms over Rose. When I heard MLB was allowing Rose back on a baseball field, to celebrate 25 years later, it was a given that I'd take my father. J. Duane Elliott, for his birthday (September 10th, 2010). He brought me to the games for the last 33 years, so I owed him. I like him much more than Pete. Dad's the real hero.

The anniversary festivities were a bit underwhelming. Pete can walk around an MLB field, but can't speak on one. His taped comments were probably the best part. To hear him advise young players to come clean before the hammer comes down -- it actually humbling. Pete should'a talked way back when. When they would'a just suspended him a season or two, then embrace him back and let him become a legendary manager, with a gamblin' hiccup in his career. Too little, too late, but at least he's telling the Roger Clemens of the game to fess up quick.

Pete circled the Great American Ball Park in a golf cart, stomped on first base, met some old legends (Eric Davis, a childhood favorite), accepted a crystal trophy, and got a few "hall of fame" chants from the surprisingly small crowd (for this event anyways). He'll make it. In his lifetime I hope. In my lifetime I hope. A trip to Cooperstown is necessary. Something I hope my father and I can share -- like this game, like the first game.

Our game? Well, the Reds have been hit or miss as of late, but this night was all about the comeback heroics we've seen all year. Saw the Chapman give up the lead, but pitch a 103 MPH fastball and a 90 MPH slider (thee nasty boy/el muchacho repugnante) and then saw Joey Votto-matic launch an opposite field home run to win the game, break the tie in the bottom of the 10th. On that night, things seemed perfect.

Foodie Cart -- Street Food of the Gods

Go watch Anthony Bourdain's episode titled "Heartland." He came to Columbus -- and made some solid observations. Namely Kihachi (the gourmet Japanese chef's meal/small plate smörgåsbord)and now, Clever Crow Pizza are relatively unknown but essential components in Columbus foodie culture. The mackeral liver at Kihachi is proof enough we have some gems here. Another segment in that episode claims Austin, Texas as the food cart capital of the U.S. Seasonally it is an ideal location for the food cart culture -- and furthering that truth I've sampled many of the carts there in my years. Ground zero for Taco Trucks, Korean Tex-Mex, one dedicated entirely to duck, Kebabalicious, the cupcake place, anything BBQ, and worthwhile NY style slices everywhere. Yeah, we should be jealous of Austin.

But should we? When we now have the Foodie Cart to brag about? The Foodie Cart trumps all in Columbus. Every other cart in this city is relatively worthless in comparison. They shill Japanese Crepes -- though many a Korean recipe slips in regularly. My first visit was heaven. Swordfish with Black Mussel Marinara and Oyako Chicken (which means mother and child, egg and chicken I learned). In future quests the menu revealed many gourmet surprises -- here's just a sampling:

Ancho Chipotle Chili Dog
Dry Curry Ground Beef
The now Legendary Bulgogi Cheesesteak
Miso Pork Belly

Yes. Pork Belly in a sweet, delicate crepe. It works. Bourdain would be proud/dumbfounded that this existed on a High Street sidewalk. I've yet to try the dessert crepes but they boast a pretty mean Banana Cream Crepe and the infamous Azuki Stick (?). Any suggestions are welcome. Plus they scoot around all over town, which adds to the reward of obtaining these goodies. Following them on Facebook to find menus and locations is now a rite of passage.

Update: just had a craving and seeked them out. Had the very popular Bacon Okonomi Yuki (a recipe with fried soba noodles and a egg) and the Azuki Stick -- which is a sweet red bean paste, similar on my tongue to guava, topped with strawberries and fresh mozzarella cheese. Believe.


I Saw Blue Oyster Cult

Seems like I've had myraid opporunities to see Blue Oyster Cult live over my lifetime. Who knows if I didn't see them in some field circa 1978 and the parents don't remember. It's possible. They've been playing in fields and arenas and stadiums and gymnasiums (and likely a ton of biker bars) since 1968. It's a wonder that in 2010, Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma -- the guitar wizards (twin leads second to only Thin Lizzy) who invented the Cult, still play the lead. And play it with a everlasting fervor. I'm sure it was face-melting during the Tyranny and Mutation tour -- it wasn't here. I'm sure it was fist-pumping "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" in the Summer of 1981, with "Burning for You" on the radio -- waiting outside Hara Arena -- it wasn't here. But they played everything and more, with utmost precision and clarity (a few steps slower maybe, not during "Buck's Boogie"). "Hot Rails to Hell," "The Red and the Black," the hits. Funny it felt like at this, the Obetz Zuchinni Festival, next to a dirt-weed race-track, grease carts and life-threatening midway rides, out on the ball diamond, these legends could get a response with instrumental songs with eight minute solos. In Obetz, and I suppose most of middle America -- "Godzilla" appears to be the biggest hit (though "Burnin" reached 4 on the charts), lots of Godzilla cut-outs for $2 at Wal-Mart in the new millenium and no "time to play b-sides." I truly appreciate their penchant to channel the old version of this band, but honestly, now, even with families around, airbourne cold sores, meth heads in sweat pants, and heavy cops, the band doesn't look or sound that far removed from that past. Burn out the day, burn out the night.

Chili Quest Vol. 6 - Cincinnati Recipe Chili (At Home)

I spied this number in my favorite local Italian Butcher Shop (Carfagna's cross the street). I've seen this generic "Cincinnati Recipe" Chili in cans, but never a pre-mix you can make yourself. The recipe called for average ground beef, I decided on 98% Lean ground beef. It made all the difference. Using more beef than the usual parlor, the consistency was that of Gold Star (not soupy) but the taste was actually the most flavorful I've had yet (close to the scale of Pleasant Ridge). The second re-heat I added Sriracha to the mixture and the balance was set perfectly. At the grocery I usually grab Ball Park Franks/Nickle's Buns/Store Grated Cheese. Oyster Crackers. This time I made a 3-Way over spaghetti. Something I haven't tried yet. Excellent. We were in Cincy Chili heaven for three days.

So unless you can recommend anything else and/or Empress apologizes for my dismay -- I'm capping the competition once I hit Price Hill and Blue Ash. Is there an Empress downtown (or some storied parlor that isn't exactly considered a parlor -- i.e. a saloon that serves chili)? I need your info. The quest is everlasting.

Will Ice Cube Ever Get His Groove Back?

There was a time when Oshay Jacskson aka Ice Cube, could do no wrong. Nothing. He was untouchable, almost a surrogate role model to white surburban kids who felt as if they were hearing a new language. His flow was never really a flow, it was more an attack of pre-meditated couplets/punches. It was the cadence of a news report. Riots before the riots. Is there a slipping point? I don't remember enjoying Predator that much -- buying War and Peace I and II and realizing Cube has become more stunted in his style. It was no imagination, just imagined hardcore. His connection to the West Coast was hardwired to Hollywood eventually. Before we know it -- Are We There Yet? : The Musical. Still, as much as Ice Cube and Ice-T produce questionable musical fodder in their later years, it's hard no to root for them to one day reign again. Not sure if it's their legacy or their entirely genuine personalities?

Soon you'll be seeing Mr. Jackson's comeback in motion. Surely all the usual suspects are there -- perhaps a Snoop track, WC (most underrated of the gangster era), a fairytale, a song about "jacking" I hope -- but can we believe? Can we call Ice Cube hard after he's headlined a Gathering of the Juggalos and appeared clowning for the camera in a sitcom byline during an NBA game? His documentary on the Raiders started great, but eventually jawned about how linked the team was to N.W.A. ("cause Al Davis/never paid us"). Surely the day N.W.A. is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they'll smile in unison, say a prayer for Eazy and watch a lesser group (Bone Thugz) assassinate their greatest hits. This day is coming soon.

For now. Cube sounds angry enough in "Drink the Kool-Aid" and "I Rep That West," so much "the West is going to tell (him) it's too West." But it's like the man has had a stroke that debilitated his ability to retain his witty/cutthroat beginning. That said, it's effective. "Rep" sparkles in bubbling synths and fake strings, while "Kool Aid" is a mesh of Public Enemy's furious alarm with old-school beat and rudimentary rhyme (still stunted). Both singles do hint at better things, a rise in rap stock, a revival. Let's hope he let loose a bit more on the deep cuts.

Stalking Miguel Cairo

Thanks to our correspondent in Los Angeles -- with access to Dodger's Stadium -- Jordan Lee secured a meeting with our favorite Red, Miguel Cairo. In this picture he is wholeheartedly endorsing the tubmlr Miguel Cairo is Greater Than..., by giving us a real life "greater than." Now the site has been keeping up with Miguel's crusade to help the Reds secure an 8 game lead in the Central Division. Tonight Miguel > Todd Coffey, a very ugly human being who used to foul up the Red's bullpen, by hitting a double that scored the tying run against the Brew Crew last night. Random thought (Adam says the Brewer's players look like Brewer's players -- the Brewers are actually alright by me).

Random video of Miguel giving an interview in Spanish.

Jimmy VanBeeber Come Back to the Five and Dime

It was likely a basement party in Dayton (nitrous and blacklight, towels used as room dividers)-- one day way back in the early '90s -- that I first learned about James VanBebber. He was to film making in Dayton, what GBV was to timeless home-recorded indie pop anthems, 'cept not many knew about him even then. Every frame of VanBebber's work oozes with the gritty blue-collar/parking lot hesher romanticism seen in the city's seedier neighborhoods, or maybe even right downtown. And let's not forget the graveyards. Especially in his first feature, Deadbeat at Dawn, the ominous Woodland Cemetery (a hilly getaway for rowdy teens) serves as many a location. In the streets it's easy to spot the half-boarded porn marts and empty warehouse that still litter the hub of the Miami Valley (and seem to get worse). Driving past the Moraine Plant now is as eerie as it gets. But maybe there really is no romanticism in it? VanBebber's initial gang war is filled with abstract moments of nunchuck handiwork and very choreographed martial art brawls. Even when you laugh though, it's followed by displays that are all to real (and in the case of the short film Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin, too much to stomach). I'm amazed that you can view his '90s love letter My Sweet Satan (a real life story of Satanist teenagers in upstate New York) in complete on YouTube (warning, the end is more frightening than you might be able to handle).

This is only to serve as an introduction to VanBebber. I've yet to investigate the decade-in-the-making Mason Family movie, and can't find any of his other short films. He won't give (me) an interview, and appears to be in hiding while he whittles away at a low-budget, decade-in-the-making biopic on Al Capone. I will proceed despite my stomach. This is a purity that's tough to handle, even to the point where I can side with VanBebber when he claims the Grindhouse revival is shit, nowhere near the rough cuts of Deadbeat. His stuff is a 42nd Street orgy of gratuitous violence and damned behavior. In Portuguese he'd be called the Maldita.

Come back VanBebber, Dayton needs another ode on celluloid. Further discussions later.

They're Right -- Curren$y is Worth Your Time

I imagine the keystroke for a dollar bill is as regular in the e-mails of guys like Curren$y as they currently are for nightbus bands using triangles, hearts, and clovers in their unspeakable names or sleazy pop stars confusing kids in lingua sexting. Blind to the fact that Curren$y even exists, or for that matter, put in time as Master P and Lil' Wayne's swamp boy -- it was there trees became a way of life. I'd be dumb to try and explain any other recent histories of the rapper, or fabled mixtapes, or collaborations/catalog appearances, but it does seem the man was too looped to be a real Def Jammer. He's on the subsidiary, where the strange ones go now. That may bode well. Absent from most hip-hop these days, above or below ground, Curren$sy rhymes with a new, albeit perpetually blunted (make that "jointed" as he doesn't do White Owls), flow. Pilot Talk is an accomplished hip-hop album due to it's crispness. Stoned immaculate and mumbled flows stay buyout among creamy samples. Somewhere on the axis of Steely Dan -- New Kingdom -- Native Tongues his template is impressive, nostalgic, but kinda' like the first time you heard Sensational. Remember?

In a year when I'm increasingly listening to actual "albums" and "eps" by hip-hop artists, and not just singles (Big Boi, Drake, Freddie Gibbs, Pill) it's a feat to be the favorite. Pilot Talk will settle nicely into fall and likely right onto a year end list.