The ’80s Pin Project: Mother Warned You

For an explanation of what the Pin Project is, go here.

This week’s pin is a statement pin. A lot of pins that were worn in the 1980s had nothing to do with music and everything to do with giving the world your, like, totally bad attitude, for sure, y’know? Today’s random, hand-in-the-bag-eyes-closed-tight pin selection is exactly that.

*cue ominous organ music*

*cue ominous organ music*

Ooh, Mamas all over the world worry about someone like you, right? Because you’re hard, yeah? You’re tough, right? You’re so full of edge you’d even cut yourself. Watch out! Somebody in the room is…merciful Heaven…quelle méchanceténo?

Please note: the real people your mother warned you about? Don’t wear badges informing you who they are.

So this was the sort of pin that was worn by girls like me. We were nice(ish) girls from the suburbs who worked in malls and pretended to be grittier than we really were. It was a pin that was worn by guys with long, unkempt, kind of stringy hair, who wore jean vests over leather jackets and had wallets that attached by a chain to their belt loops. It was worn by kids who wanted to feel bad but would grow up to become working-stiff restaurant managers or mechanics or gym teachers. Or writers. Legitimate bad-asses let their actions speak for them. Me? I was just a kid from New Jersey trying to hang tough. I’m retroactively slightly embarrassed for my 16-year-old self.

That’s about it for this pin. I’m going to leave you with the song that epitomizes everything behind this pin–the faux badassery, the inherent drudgery, the in-your-face “I am a walking cartoon party” vibe that seemed to inhabit so much ’80s culture. Presenting Poison‘s “Nothing But a Good Time”.

The ’80s Pin Project: Hooters, #1

If you’re wondering what in the heck this “Pin Project” thing is, please go here, then meet me back at this blog. ‘kay? ‘kay!

The pin that I pulled out of my little box of treasures (dumped into a bag, reaching in blind….”You certainly are being random, aren’t you?” asked George), was a pin–first in what will surely be a series–for the band The Hooters.

Oh my word, how I loved The Hooters.

hooters1

Not to be confused with a certain wings-and-boobs-centric “family” restaurant.

What wasn’t to love? The Hooters of the 1980s were a five-piece power pop band out of Philadelphia. They were cute! They were dance-y! They were color-coded!

Cute, and harmless. What's not to love? Image from the80sman.com

Cute, and harmless.
Image from the80sman.com

The boys were all razor-cheeked and hairsprayed, and appropriately collared and slouchy. They made (make, actually, as they’re still together) music that fuses pop, ska, folk, and reggae. In the early-to-mid-1980s, this meant they created a decidedly different sound that stood out from the pop-synth ’80s electronic boom. Often their songs were flavored with unexpected instruments. They made a lot of use of the mandolin, which at the time was generally used by art-rock bands like Jethro Tull, or easy-breezy twee-folk like that given unto us by Seals and Crofts. The other instrument that set The Hooters apart from the ’80s power-pop pack was…

A melodica.

A what?

firemel

A melodica. Image from buttonbox.com

 

A melodica. Maybe you know it better by its nickname.

A hooter.

(Side note to Hooters fans who call themselves “Melodicans”. Stop that. You are not “Melodicans”, and you need to get over yourselves. You are Hooter Heads. Deal with it.)

Indeed, The Hooters named themselves after an oversized harmonica and took early-1980s Philadelphia by storm. They broke nationally in 1985, after signing with Columbia Records and producing the album Nervous Night. It’s a well-constructed album full of pop hooks and great harmonies. It’s an album I will stand behind to this day. Mostly. With one caveat.

It is entirely true that on every Hooters album, there is one song that I find unilaterally unlistenable. Dreadful. I find myself asking if their producers were on crack when they let this song through, or maybe their producer has some kind of terrible secret about the band and makes them perform one abysmal song per album, one that is atonal and completely lacking in style, or hook, or musical sensibilities. On Nervous Night it’s their cover of Love’s “She Comes In Colors” (note: watch the Love video at your own risk; NSFW or kids). I love all the rest of the album, but that song, their cover? It makes me want to burst my own eardrums. We can talk about their other albums’ misery songs, “Hard Rockin’ Summer” and “Mr. Big Baboon”, another time. And I digress.

One of the highlights of my misspent youth was an invitation I received from a friend to accompany him to a listening party, celebrating the 1989 release of The Hooters’ album Zig Zag. Swoon! Do I want to go listen to the new Hooters album and meet the band in the process? Swoon! HELL YES! Here’s a little photographic evidence of me and swoony blond Rob, hooter-playing Hooter and scalawag, who asked the friend I went there with if I was single.

Please note: my suspenders? Are paisley.

Please note: we had matching poofy hair volume.

Eagle-eyed readers: yes, my suspenders were paisley. I blush at the sight of that acid-washed jacket. And I wish I’d known my collar was turning upward. But I digress.

As I was not single at the time, that ended my potential for dating said Hooter. In one of the least-expected coincidences I can imagine, I discovered that two different women I have become friends with over the last bunch of years were also hit on by swoony Rob. I will say this for him: I know these ladies. He’s got good taste.

Ahhh. The Hooters. Everyone I know, knows who they are. Most people have disavowed fandom of them; they’re not cool any more, they’re not color-coded, they haven’t really changed their hair and that’s kind of weird. (OK, I’ll grant that retaining ’80s hair is an unwise business decision in terms of staying pop-relevant.) It’s too bad, because their music is still fun. 1980s nostalgia isn’t always a bad thing. Not when the music is great. Imma leave you with “And We Danced”. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be be-bopping at the union hall.

The ’80s Pin Project: Worried About the Beav

This past weekend, in two entirely unrelated events, I stepped into the Wayback Machine, Destination: 1980s. At my gym, we held an ’80s-themed Zumba/Sh’Bam dance party–to rousing success (if I do say so myself). The songs were great fun and our participants all dressed the part, though I haven’t been around that many sets of legwarmers in a long time.

After the dance party, I came home, showered, put on my party clothes, and drove to my old hometown so I could go to the birthday party of a woman I’ve known since I was two years old. Party theme: 1980s.

I was immersed in 1980s nostalgia. And there’s a lot about that decade that…OK, was flawed and hateful (the Cold War, the PMRC)…but there’s a lot about that decade that was fun. Exuberant! Nostalgia-worthy. The music. The sunglasses. The neon. The pins.

Oh, the pins.

Pins fell out of fashion by the end of the ’80s and morphed into “flair” (brilliantly skewered in the movie Office Space) but for a while, pins ruled. The 1980s were all about wearing your opinions out in the open (think of the ubiquitous “Frankie Say: Relax” shirt) and pins were interchangeable and portable. They were like the mood rings of the ’80s. You want to know how I feel? Don’t worry, I’ll tell you, and everyone around you. We wore pins on jackets, on vests, on sassy berets. Girls decorated their purse straps with pins, up one end and down the other. And they covered a whole range of pop culture references, from images of favorite bands to TV icons to bizarrely aggressive/pithy/sexually loaded phrases. And so on, and so on. I worked in a record store that sold pins. I bought a ton of ’em.

I still have all my pins.

Now that I think of it, I still have all my notes that one group of friends passed to me in the hallways of my high school, too, but I’m not positive I have to go public with them. Yet I have them. It’s not hoarding if it’s cool, right?

Anyway, back to my little treasure chest, my storage box filled with these weird little mementos of my overly-adorned youth.

WHAT'S IN THE BOX?

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

My objective is to document them. Pick a pin, at random, out of my funny little jewel box of memories, and write about it. I think the inaugural pin I picked is a winner.

Oh, Ward.

Oh, Ward.

There was a resurgence in the popularity of the 1950s-era sitcom Leave It To Beaver in the 1980s, largely thanks to the emergence of cable, and superstations, and an increased need for programming. WGN, a superstation that broadcasts (still!) out of Chicago, began re-running LITB episodes in the early ’80s that renewed interest in The Beav. Suddenly Ward and June Cleaver and their lovable troublemaker kids Wally and–of course–the Beaver, were back in the public eye, and why not? They combined wholesome family fun with a saucy catchphrase jam-packed with double-entendre-y goodness. Because really, at some point? Don’t we all get a little worried about the beav? 

As a side note: who gives their child a nickname that is a euphemism for vagina? And, could you discuss, straight-faced, your beaver concerns with stately dad Ward Cleaver (a/k/a Hugh Beaumont)?

Can you sexytime this face? Really? Image from findagrave.com

Can you sexytalk this face? Really?
Image from findagrave.com

I just found out that in real life, Hugh Beaumont was also a minister. This makes the vagina jokes even more perverse, especially coming from a surly teen behind the cash register at a record store, implicitly winking at everyone who gets the joke on my saucy pin.

Don’t think for a moment that I wasn’t surly, but this was a pin slated for days when I was feeling a little edgy, a little flirty. This wasn’t a warning pin. This pin was nothing but a good time.

Pins ruled. Stay tuned for more!

Announcing…

Hey erryboddy! CHECK THIS OUT!!!

:D

:D My very own *noms* At Cherry Alley Cafe, right here in beautiful downtown Lewisburg.

Cherry Alley Cafe, a local coffee shop, has agreed that I should come on board with them and be their marshmallow and cookie maker. And I get to work out of their groovy commercial kitchen, with an oven that doesn’t get wonky in the back (like mine) and giant cookie pans and NO DISHWASHING BY HAND (oh, how my hands thank them).

WHAT??? I’m a cookie chef??? How did this happen?

Occasionally, there are times when I don’t understand my life, but it’s mine and I embrace it all the same. If you had asked me when I first set foot in Lewisburg, “Hey, what will you be doing in (almost)11 years?”, I can guarantee you my answer would not have been, “Still living here, branching out into some sort of cottage business that involves baking cookies and making marshmallows.” And yet, here I am. Still. Doing that.

And teaching Zumba. Because I clearly have a split personality. I make cookies, which is why I work out. Or, I work out so I can make cookies? Perhaps I should consider myself to be “complex”. Or…Well-rounded, how about that?

Anyway.

This is a major building block in the beyondpaisley empire. What shall I call this, o mighty tower of marshmallow?

Toot-toot-a root-toot-tooooooooo!

Thank you, George, for messing up and giving me this name.

Thank you, George, for the slip of the tongue that gave me this name.

So. I’m excited. And I’m ready to move this forward, changing the world through confections.

And cookies.

*double nom*

*double nom*

For what it’s worth…I am an unrepentant fan of chocolate but in all seriousness…try the fig, they’re tremendous.

EVER FORWARD!

A Few Thoughts About Boris Nemtsov

I was mid-meltdown thanks to ongoing, recurrent, emotionally draining computer problems. The TV, languishing in “Mute”, was tuned to a news channel, which we set it to almost as a default. Somewhere in the midst of me freaking out and sobbing (real tears!), more than my fair share of “Why me?”s and a serious case of PLOMS (or, Poor Little Old Me Syndrome), I glanced at the TV, and noticed the news breaking across the right hand scroll bar on my screen.

Boris Nemtsov had been shot dead on a bridge in Moscow. I gasped out loud. Suddenly my stupid computer issues didn’t seem quite so important.

I met Boris Nemtsov, back in 1998 or 1999. This was back in the stone age before cell phones and selfies, so sadly, I don’t have any photos. It’s is too bad. I’d love to be able to post a photo. I’d love to have a photo at all, but I digress. I was a Russian Studies major in college and he came to speak on our campus. I was asked to attend a dinner the Russian Department was hosting in his honor, before going en masse to his talk. Sure, I said. I’ll have dinner with a visiting dignitary, no problem. Surprise surprise, I found myself seated directly across the table from him. Because that’s not too much pressure. Hi, Guest of Honor. You get to feast your eyes on me during your entire meal. At least I had good lipstick that day.

When you’re that near someone for a prolonged, talky-type dinner, you can’t help but get some insight into what makes him tick. I have some distinct memories.

Boris Nemtsov worked to make us feel comfortable. He engaged with the students at the table, seemed interested in carrying on conversations, and (to my recollection) was neither dismissive nor self-aggrandizing nor arrogant. He was witty and smart. That’s not to say he didn’t have an ego, but he still made the people he was interacting with feel like their opinions mattered.

Which is really quite charming. And a powerful skill to have, if you’re…oh, I don’t know. A politician, trying to get people on your side.

boris 2

Image from theguardian.com

 

He ate with his arm around the top of his plate, and I had the distinct impression that if I were to try and take his plate before he was ready he would have stabbed me in the hand. If I were judging body language, I would say he was used to fending off older brothers or schoolmates or something. Or maybe it meant nothing and he just ate that way.

He liked watermelon Jolly Ranchers. I know, because I gave him a handful, to quell a tickle in his throat before giving his talk. Watermelon Jolly Ranchers should be a staple in diplomatic meetings, as they clearly create a bridge between cultures. World peace through watermelon Jolly Ranchers? It’s as good a plan as any I’ve seen. 

The attention Boris Nemtsov paid to people didn’t slip away from memory as soon as he walked out the door. Two weeks later, after touring several colleges in the US, he was back on my campus and indeed, in one of my classes. He walked right up to me and said, “You. I remember your face.” I joked that I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. We laughed, he waggled a finger at me.

In Russia’s current political climate, it would paralyze me with fear. Not-noticed is better.

So here’s the thing: it’s not like Boris Nemtsov and I were buddies. He never wrote, he never called. And I’m not starry-eyed and delusional. Of course he had skeletons. Of course he made enemies. And I’d be surprised to find out that he was untouched by the corruption that generally accompanies global politics and enterprise, even though he promoted transparency in politics. But he was shot in the back, killed in the street, most likely for political reasons. It was well-orchestrated, and a block away from The Kremlin. It would be like someone who didn’t like the president getting mysteriously murdered on the White House lawn. There’s a message in that.  

Nemtsov’s death isn’t an intellectual exercise, an academic imagining of what it would be like to live someplace where you could be killed for a difference of opinion. It isn’t part of a movie, and Jason Bourne isn’t going to break through a skylight and topple the corrupt regime who thinks it’s become untouchable. It was real. It happened. Right now his kids, his mother, his wife, his girlfriend (who was holding his hand as he was shot, poor traumatized thing), his friends, and mourners all across Russia are coping with the ache of his sudden and irreversible loss.

While Vladimir Putin enjoys an 86% approval rating.

Screen capture from cnn.com

Screen capture from cnn.com, slight alteration by me

Which doesn’t happen when your economy is in the dumpster and you rank 78th out of the 91 countries evaluated in a Gallop poll that examines the well-being of a country and its citizens.

The best I can say about Vladimir Putin is that he exudes awkward, kissing-a-child-on-the-belly-creepy-Grandpa-ness. The worst and most likely thing I can say about him is he’s a sociopathic former KGB officer, and now the madman is running the asylum. He’s already got a string of jailed or dead journalists and dissidents and human rights advocates and political opponents behind him, and his  list of dead and/or nullified enemies has just grown by one.

Image from theguardian.com

Image from theguardian.com

Putin, chillingly, called Nemtsov’s murder a “provocation” (then sent police into Nemtsov’s apartment and confiscated relevant personal belongings, like his computer) saying that it was done by an enemy of the state who wants to provoke a negative reaction in order to make Russia look bad. Oh, right. Because the state is the real victim here. Joseph Stalin, former dictator of the USSR and a murderous psychopath in his own right, called the murder of Sergei Kirov a “provocation”, then used that as an excuse to implement the show trials and the Great Purge of the 1930s. I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen next. I’m just saying that history indicates this isn’t going to get any prettier.

Will we ever know, for sure, what happened to Boris Nemtsov? I doubt it. They may find “a shooter”, there may be someone who faces a trial, but I doubt anyone will expose a brain behind the operation. It will take a Herculean effort to convince me that Putin wasn’t directly behind this. Others have pointed out that even if he didn’t order Nemtsov’s killing, he’s certainly fostered an atmosphere of rabid nationalism, intolerance, and fervent lawlessness, which gives implicit permission for loose cannons to run off fully-cocked. But I think that’s letting Putin off the hook. I think he did it, I think he ordered it, I think he was watching out the window of the Kremlin when it happened. I think it’s time to seriously worry about what’s happening in Russia, if we haven’t started doing so already. I’m afraid it’s too late for Jolly Rancher diplomacy. Was Boris Nemtsov a threat to Putin’s regime? He was, as much as any charismatic man with a strong opinion is to a sociopath drunk on his own power. 

I am shocked and saddened and horrified that Boris Nemtsov is gone. I liked him, and he was nice to me. But what’s worse is, I worry that this death is just the tip of a giant, bloody iceberg.

Nosh: Roasted Parsnip Fries

Welcome to the easiest and most versatile recipe you’ll ever…ever…encounter.

In the long, cold winter nights, like everybody else, I long for comfort foods. You know the kind, the ones that exude savory warmth and just make you feel good and safe and warm, from your heart outwards. For me–and believe me when I say I have no idea why–I get the warm-fuzzies from parsnips.

Parsnips are a less-popular cousin of the carrot, and while I enjoy the noble carrot, I have no idea why parsnips take second place. They taste better. You can do more things with them. And their flesh is almost-creamy, so you get a textural treat as well. If parsnips are still in the ground when the first frost hits, they become even sweeter than they are in summer, so yay for winter produce! They weren’t anything I ever ate when I was a kid; I didn’t have my first parsnip until well into my adulthood, but I took to them so fast it’s like I’m making up for lost time. I’ve eaten them practically every way possible; roasted with balsamic glaze, mashed, sauteed…you name it, I’ve tried it. But turning them into oven-roasted fries is my current favorite parnsip incarnation, as it fills both my inner yearnings for yummy parsnips and the “I want to eat my weight in french fries” craving.  Here’s what you need:

  • 1 lb. parsnips
  • Olive oil, enough to coat the parsnips
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Seriously. That is all you need. More on this in a little bit.

Preheat your oven. Remember how I said this was versatile? Well. Are you roasting anything else this evening? Put the parsnips in at that temperature. Depending on the size and thickness at which you slice them, they may take a little more time, or a little less, than the expected 400°, 25-30 minutes, cooking time and temp. For example: we have sliced them thicker, and let them cook in a 450° oven for twenty minutes, turning them once mid-cook-time. In today’s blog, the parsnips were cut super-thin and cooked for exactly 22 minutes at 390° (the spinach and mushroom tart we made for dinner had a very specific temperature, it was kind of funny), and they came out beautifully browned and crispy. (And the tart was OK, but I won’t be blogging about it. Please focus on my beautiful parsnips.) The point is, you can make this recipe work with whatever else you’re roasting.

Often, the core of a parsnip is a little woody. Your first objective once the ‘snip is washed and peeled is to take out that woody core, so cut the parsnip in half. You’ll see a definite line where the core differentiates from the flesh. Carve out the core and start slicing your parsnips into surprisingly addictive ersatz fries.

Cored, and ready for fry creation.

Cored, and ready for fry creation.

A few things.

1) If you have a mandoline you’re not terrified of using, that would make the julienning process easier. I do not have a mandoline that doesn’t terrify me. Look at this as an opportunity to improve your knife skills. Slicing them is the hardest part of the entire recipe, and slicing’s not so bad, right?

2) I think thinner is better, in this instance. The parsnips bake up nice and crispy when they’re cut thin, but of course, this is your kitchen so cut the fries as thick or thin as you like.

When you’re done, you’ll have a beautiful pile of parsnips.

IMG_0223-001

Just waiting for you to do with them what you will.

Toss them with the oil and your choice of seasonings. I’ve seen them roasted with a wide range of herbs and spices, so if you’re devoted to the idea of adding in more spices, the go for it! You can use thyme, or rosemary, or Aleppo pepper,  or chili powder, or Parmesan cheese, and so on, and so on. But I recommend making them relatively au naturel the first time ’round, so you get to experience beautiful parsnips in their inherent radiant beauty. Sometimes, less is more.

Once you’ve herbed and spiced and oiled your ‘snips, lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Pretty much it.

That’s pretty much it.

Then pop them into your nice hot oven. Turn them once every ten minutes to ensure even cooking and so you can check on them. As I said before, these were in for exactly 22 minutes. We probably could have pulled them at the 20-minute mark, but we gave them a few extra moments to maximize future crunch. When we were done, we had a beautiful pile of gorgeous, totally delicious parsnip fries.

Don't even think about trying to steal fries off my plate.

Don’t even think about trying to steal these fries off my plate.

George and I have been known to eat every last bit of parsnip in one sitting; they are THAT good. And they’re best when they’re crispy-fresh, straight out of the oven. Overnight, they tend to soften, though they still taste incredible. We’ve probably made these a dozen times in the past few months, and will make them again and again. Because parsnips.

(Side note: Mom, did you ever imagine, when I was a kid, that I would be such a vegetable junkie? No. Me neither.) 

 

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