12 March 2008

Oscar of the Waldorf

What's the story with catered meetings and the giant carafe of house dressing? Can't I get some chunky bleu cheese up in this bitch? How about some rich and creamy Thousand Islands for my crudité?!

Thousand Island dressing dates back to 1912, but as one can imagine, there are a myriad conflicting stories about the origins of this rogue variant of Russian salad dressing. It begins with Sophia LaLonde and Chicago's Blackstone Hotel. Substituting mayonnaise for the yogurt used in Russian dressing, Sophia added pickle relish, chives a few chopped up hard-boiled eggs. It was 1910.

Vaudeville's May Irwin was rich and buxom. Not only was she on the receiving end of the first ever on-screen kiss, she was also a shrewd investor who turned her silent movie money into some serious coin. May spent a great deal of her time at a summer home on secluded Club Island, a small island off of Grindstone Island of the Thousand Islands. Shall I wait for you to catch up?

Just let me know when you're ready...

OK? Ok.

So some people credit May with naming the dressing after her friend Sophia LaLonde. May hung with LaLonde at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago but Sophia was from the Thousand Islands region of upstate New York around Eastern Ontario.

George Boldt, of Waldorf-Astoria Hotel fame, also popularised the salad dressing by instructing the maitre d' to put it on the hotel's exclusive menu. Like LaLonde, Boldt had a home, well actually a castle ironically named Boldt Castle, on one of the Thousand Islands, too. So who knows. One of them came up with it first. Suppose we'll never know for sure.

But did you know the word "avocado" comes from the Spanish aguacate, which is derived from the Aztec ahuacatl, meaning "testicle", because of its shape. Historically avocados had a long-standing stigma as a sexual stimulant and were not purchased or consumed by any person wishing to preserve a chaste image. Avocados were known by the Aztecs as "the fertility fruit". And how!

The only avocado trees I've ever known were in Australia, Byron Bay. A town full of Spicoli's. Stayed at a house this family had built from scratch a few miles from the highway. Parkway Drive I think it was. Made us real some strong coffee and we were on our way. Don't remember where to.

The coffee in South Africa is better, however. Stuff called Frisco. Its amazing. Brought some back and got my mother hooked on it. She was ordering cans of Frisco online for like $50. It was that good. And it was instant! It was like working class 7-11 coffee with creamy chicory mixed in. In fact, I think it was advertised as a "coffee beverage". Not even real coffee and my mother was paying $50 to fly in 250 grams of this stuff. Can't find anyone here who does the coffee and chicory thing. Been looking everywhere. Funny though because I never thought of chicory coming from Africa. In fact, I don't think it does. Can't grow no chicory in Cape Town. But fuck if that sunset wasn't the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. We spent a few nights chasing the sun along the coast. Trying to hit the beach before it got too low. Ya win some, ya lose some.

Turns out the chicory plant is one of the earliest cited in recorded literature. Horace mentions it in reference to his own diet, which he describes as very simple: "Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea, me malvae" which means "As for me, olives, endives, and mallows provide sustenance."

In the Napoleonic Era in France, chicory was an adulterant in coffee or a substitute for coffee altogether. Imagine a cup of brewed chicory? That burns. The chicory flower is often seen as inspiration for the Romantic concept of the Blue Flower. Some Europeans thought it could open locked doors. I don't know about no locked doors but the hard working Afrikaans love their instant chicory coffee.

Round that time I met Madonna. Not the singer, but better. She kissed like she had nowhere to be, nowhere to go and nothing to do. Them cobblestones felt like clouds when I stood there with her. Beak to beak and cheek to cheek. We'd listen to 'Blonde on Blonde' and argue about shit that never mattered. Used to drive up to 11th avenue and eat Italian spinach. They did a thing with a few tablespoons olive oil, some garlic cloves, some eggs, some fresh parmesan and a teaspoon salt that I'd never seen. They made miracles happen in that cucina. Made the spinach taste like candy. We'd go back to my house and make love with spinach in our teeth and love in our hearts.

Next thing I know I'm weaving through Natchez Trace in Mississippi. Heading towards Nashville. Middle of winter. Bushwhackers, bibles, and boats. Just me driving a sleeping van full of bandmates and a 6x10 trailer full of gear. Trying to stay awake myself lest I land us all in one of them cypress swamps that beckon. Peter Murphy's "Deep" kept me up a while. But by the time "Roll Call" reprised my eyes were dry and tired.

Middle of winter. I'm cranking Mungo Jerry on the stereo. You know the tune. They only had one worth knowing. Just me, the guys from Mungo Jerry and them cypress swamps. Snow on the asphalt. Winding down that gypsy highway. Thinkin 'bout that anonymous Frenchman, who wrote of the trail and its "miserable conditions". Right on, Frenchy, right on. It was 1742.

The mysterious death of Meriwether Lewis, also known as Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame, met his end while traveling the Trace. Meriwether had some unpaid debts pilin' on up, got drunk and shot himself. Well, thats what they think.

Wandering bison, deer and other game heard two shots but loading then reloading a muzzle loaded gun with one bullet hole is hard to believe. Maybe someone shot Meriwether, maybe it was Billy Clark? No one knows. Either way, Meriwether was shot once in the head and once in the chest. He lived until the next morning. The sun rose and Meriwether set. These things happen. Alls I know is, it was a long way to Bakersfield and those roadside vegetable stands.

That's when you really know why a tomato is a fruit. When its swimming down your chin, dripping down your wrist in that warm California sun, windows down, hot breeze blowing. Sprinkle a little salt on it and close your eyes. Now that's living simple. Barreling down Route 580 with them wild wind energy turbines all doing the backstroke in haunting unison.

Alls I know is she looks good in that Chanel bangle. She likes the sound of acrylic and resin like a dog's little paws searching through some rusty and crunchy leaves left over from fall.

Next stop: Art Nouveau, the Ã…rhus Theatre, port of Denmark, Capital of Jutland. I'll see you there.

“In the port of Amsterdam
There's a sailor who sings
Of the dreams that he brings
From the wide open sea
In the port of Amsterdam
There's a sailor who sleeps
While the river bank weeps
To the old willow tree

In the port of Amsterdam
There's a sailor who dies
Full of beer, full of cries
In a drunken town fight
In the port of Amsterdam
There's a sailor who's born
On a hot muggy morn
By the dawn's early light

In the port of Amsterdam
Where the sailors all meet
There's a sailor who eats
Only fish heads and tails
And he'll show you his teeth
That have rotted too soon
That can haul up the sails
That can swallow the moon

And he yells to the cook
With his arms open wide
"hey, bring me more fish
Throw it down by my side"
And he wants so to belch
But he's too full to try
So he stands up and laughs
And he zips up his fly

In the port of Amsterdam
You can see sailors dance
Paunches bursting their pants
Grinding women to porch
They've forgotten the tune
That their whiskey voice croaked
Splitting the night
With the roar of their jokes
And they turn and they dance
And they laugh and they lust
Till the rancid sound of the accordion bursts
And then out of the night
With their pride in their pants
And the sluts that they tow
Underneath the street lamps

In the port of Amsterdam
There's a sailor who drinks
And he drinks and he drinks
And he drinks once again
He'll drink to the health
Of the whores of Amsterdam
Who've given their bodies
To a thousand other men
Yeah, they've bargained their virtue
Their goodness all gone
For a few dirty coins
Well he just can't go on
Throws his nose to the sky
And he aims it up above
And he pisses like I cry
On the unfaithful love

In the port of Amsterdam
In the port of Amsterdam