Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Diet Tips, Defunct Magazines & Dead Writers



So far, I’ve lost eleven pounds in two weeks on my annual Lenten spring training diet. I give up all flour products and dairy products for the 40+ days of Lent. I started at 195 and I hope to reach 180 (or less) by Easter. That will give me a little leeway to rise back to 185 by the time my final softball season begins. Once I start playing, I should be able to easily maintain that weight through September – or maybe drop back to 180 if I really hustle all year.

One of the problems with a diet like this is dealing with the inevitable cravings. I really, really, really like bread. And pizza, crackers, cookies, muffins, pie, and just about anything else that contains flour. I am also in the habit, the rest of the year, of having milk with almost all of my meals. As well as butter on my bread, which I really, really, really like.

In order to stay “on the wagon,” I eat some things during this time that I otherwise might not. For instance, I’ll occasionally grab a jar of peanut butter and just eat a couple of spoonfuls. That helps to stave off the felt need for something even worse, such as peanut butter AND CRACKERS. Another thing that has helped me get by is gefilte fish and schav.

You’re probably familiar with gefilte fish. I’ve found that most folks I come in contact with really don’t care for it. I think it’s wonderful and it absolutely cures any cravings I might be having.

(I know there’s a small amount of flour in most gefilte fish, but it’s negligible in the overall scheme of things, so I don’t sweat it.)

The other part of the combo, schav, you may not have heard of before. It’s a liquid concoction (“A French Delicacy” or so the jar proclaims) made from water, egg yolks and sorrel leaves. MY WIFE calls it “weed soup.”

Schav is a touch on the bitter side, but when eaten in combination with the gefilte fish, the two even out. That’s because gefilte is just a bit on the sweet side for cat food, um, I mean, fish. Anyway, I have two or three gefilte fish (Patties? What is the name for a serving of it?) along with a bowl of schav and it fills me, satisfies me, and only has about 300 calories. Schav is amazingly non-caloric – about 60 calories in a quart.

I assume that most of you would sit down to eat this and barf. Me? I like it. It does the job. And when I hit .500 this year, I’ll offer myself to schav manufacturers the world over as their new poster boy.

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My brother-in-law, John - who is ten times the writer that I am, published for pay and all that, but who hasn’t written anything for publication in years (so far as I know) but he should – is moving from Staten Island to Brooklyn.

In the course of packing up his stuff, he had to make some decisions concerning what to keep and what to toss. His new place is a bit smaller than his current residence, so there was more tossing than he probably would have liked.

Anyway, he decided to get rid of a whole bunch of music magazines from the past 20 years. While he was going through them, he found an issue of CREEM, with my name on it, from 1979. He called and asked if I’d like to have it back, which tells you something about John. If you loan him something, it isn’t going to get lost – AND he’ll attempt to return it to you, even if the postage costs more than the thing is worth.

Are any of you, from my approximate age range, past fans of CREEM? It was easily the best rock magazine in existence, IMHO. Utterly unimpressed with its own existence, the mag poked fun at just about anybody and anything associated with rock, while still managing to maintain an attitude that let you know they might be goofing on this stuff, but they would go to the wall for most of the folks involved in it, too.

I used to laugh out loud at the photo captions. They never, ever put a straight caption under a photo. For instance, they might have had something like this to accompany a picture of Gene Simmons:






















Little known fact: Gene’s father was an anteater!

My favorite writer on the magazine was a fellow by the name of Rick Johnson. If you are at all aware of his stuff, you know that I’ve stolen much of whatever style I have from him. He was like me, in that he loved good hard rock and heavy metal, but he knew damned well there was enough pretension in the practitioners to light up a city for ten years if it could somehow be converted into electricity.

(There were other writers of some note on the pages – Lester Bangs comes immediately to mind – but an issue without Rick Johnson was a major disappointment to me.)

I found out today that Rick Johnson is dead.

I was going to publish this as I had written it last night - that is, unaware of Johnson's death - but I decided to do a last-minute check to see if there was anything on-line about the man. He had, the last time I checked, not been published for many years and info about him was scarce. I checked and found the above article. Bummer.

I had written to him a few years back, after finding an address through a search. I wasn't sure if the person I was writing to was the same Rick Johnson, but a couple of things about the contact info I found led me to believe that it might be him. As it turned out, it was. He replied to my letter of glowing praise some eight months after I had sent it.

In his letter - typewritten on an actual typewriter, and with quite a few typos - he thanked me for the compliments and told me that he was working as the manager of some sort of shop, as I recall. He wondered if I was the same Jim Sullivan he knew from some publishing enterprise or other and if I might have a job offer for him.

I never answered his letter, although I intended to. I lost it and didn't have the time or inclination to once again do a search for his address. Now he's gone. Too bad. The man was a tremendous writer.

I can't do justice to him here, without more source material to quote from, but I can tell you that my favorite line of Rick's came in response to a letter to the editor. He had written a scathing piece on The Runaways, an all-girl group from which Joan Jett later escaped to some notoriety and success. Someone in the band had written a long involved letter, defending the group, and it was published, followed by Johnson’s concise six-word reply - “Go sit on a snow cone.”

Sadly, CREEM stopped publishing quite a while back. As brother-in-law John perceptively noted, it was too irreverent for its own good. There was no way it could have continued without it finally becoming ponderous and self-important.

(*cough* Rolling Stone *cough*)

I’m looking forward to reading the issue again. The cover story was by Rick Johnson. Perhaps I’ll throw a few quotes of his out here, after I’m done with it, so that you can get a better idea of the man’s huge talent.

(I suppose I should acknowledge that an on-line version of the magazine has sprung up. It doesn't seem to capture the same feeling, though. The archives contain a couple of handfuls of articles from days when it was on actual paper. It will give you some idea of the tone, but if you were there then, you'll readily see that now isn't quite the same - although the caption under the Keith Richards photo is about as good as it gets.)

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Well, that’s about it for now. I could give you some bullshit or other about the Celtics, but you don’t want to hear that, do you? No, I didn’t think so.

How about a funny birthday card then? Courtesy of my Uncle Jim:Soon, with more better stuff.

9 comments:

Mushy said...

Great stuff man...some of those words and shots brought back a lot of rock'n roll memories.

I love the personal gross stories - as you well know.

John said...

Well, It's not complete accurate that I haven't written for publication for years...It's just that my focus is on literary fiction which--pour moi -- is a lot harder than music journalism, and finding quality outlets willing to publish are fewer and far between.

But you should recall that I "wrote" this joke, which might be timely, giving the other details of today's post and this weekend's holiday:

Q: What's Irish and a real pain in the ass?

A: Colin O'Scopy

Erin Go Bragh!

Stu said...

With regard to the top photo, here's what Uncle Frank said, in his song "Packard Goose," which is entirely about rock critics, Rolling Stone magazine in particular -

Journalism's kinda scary
And of it we should be wary

Barbara said...

Too bad he's gone. That post about his death was on a very odd blog. I hope you enjoy re-reading that issue.

James Cooper said...

Ah, the colonoscopy. Still a good many years left before I have to partake of such fun, but someday I know I'll be wincing over that personal invasion too.

And in honor of your diet I think I'll have some bread, pizza, crackers, cookies, muffins, and pie :-)

The Omnipotent Q said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Omnipotent Q said...

Creem was a cool magazine back in the old days. It only seems like 100 years ago though....

Suldog said...

Mushy: Yeah, your recent shoulder stuff is pretty grody. I'll see if I can come up with something equally appetizing in the future.

John: Here I was, extolling your virtues as a writer, and you have a misspelling in your very first sentence. Ah, well. That's why they hire editors, isn't it?

(See? That's what you get for being nice enough to come out of lurking and actually leave a comment - a snide remark.)

Stu: You know that CREEM was a top-notch mag if Frank deigned to pose for a cover.

Barbara: Not only will I enjoy re-reading that issue, you might get to enjoy some bits of it, as well. I will grab random quotes from Johnson and put them out here after I'm done with it. The man was truly gifted and it is an absolute shame that there will probably never be a collection of his stuff published.

James: Have as much as you want - now. Come Easter, I will be scarfing up more than my fair share and supplies are likely to become short.

Mystery Author: My sentiments exactly!

Q: In dog years, it was!

Michael Leggett said...

Creem Magazine:

What a Name!