Archive for the ‘PASSING’ Category

HAIKU 5*7*5* Autumn

October 5, 2018 1 comment

The leaves are falling

Greenish leaves with brownish tips

Autumn is calling


CHANGE 2018 remix: 10 signs of age

June 13, 2018 1 comment

1)  You are 420 years of age in dog years.

2)  Hello to Mom and Dad.

3)  First MLB players were younger than oneself,

Then MLB players were younger than oneself,

Now MLB stadiums are younger. (Boston’s own Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field are still older).

4)  You “left home” 40 years ago.

5)  Most of your former employers are out of business.

6)  One’s brain has been re-tooled to digital but the thoughts are still analog and that is a good thing.

7)  One’s threshold of pain has increased significantly in the last few years enabling work and exercise unimaginable 5 years ago.

8)  Deaths of friends who have been friends for 30+ years makes one realize that 30+ years of friendship are highly unlikely among current compatriots.

9)  Lifelong regret regarding M.S. and J.M.  Some things can’t be and shouldn’t be forgiven.

10)  39 years a vegetarian!


CHANGE 2016 remix: 10 signs of age

1)  Your age is 406 in dog years.

2)  Once you had bald spots, now you have hair spots.

3) “Lifelong best friend” turned out to mean her “lifelong”.

4)  You’ve lived through disco 4 times.

5)  ‘#’ went from meaning ‘number’ to meaning ‘pound’ to meaning ‘hashtag’ since you have aged out of middle age.

6)  “Lifelong regrets”regarding J.M. and M.S. means your “lifelong” and deservedly so.  Some wrongs do not go away nor should they.

7)  “You look good for your age,” is finally a real compliment.

8)  You have outlived your father.

9)  1958=58!

10)  “Deserves’ got nothing to do with it.”

BLACK FRIDAY: It didn’t always mean a retail holiday.

December 1, 2015 1 comment

BLACK FRIDAY, the day after Thanksgiving kicks off the Christmas shopping season in spite of the fact that my nearest CVS has had Christmas thingys since Halloween, and don’t give me any of that ‘Happy Holidays’ stuff,  as surely as the Detroit Lions vs. whoever has been played since 1959.

Target, Macy’s, Olympia Sports, Sephora, Sears, and a virtual plethora of retailers clamor to gain our ears, bandwidths and wallets.  Even “cultural” retailers such as the Guitar Center on Boylston St. here in Boston ply their off priced wares.  Here in the New England of the  21st. century malls such as Boston’s Copley Place and the Natick Mall advertise for all of the stores housed under their roofs.  

Security firms pay $25 an hour for armed guards at the Neiman Marcus at the Natick Mall!  Righteous bucks!

*54″ HDTV for only $19.99!*

and the like are the lingua franca of the marketing maelstrom.

Such was not always the case.

Indeed methinks that the emergence of Black Friday as a retail holiday dates back to…

…the passing of what Tom Brokaw called “the greatest generation,” who lived through the Great Depression and WWII, which is to say my parents.

My mother, Doris was born in 1925, and my father Shelly was born in 1927. 

On occasion I would want some kind of mild extravagance, such as a 1st. baseman’s mitt.  My father would reply by bending my ear with stories of playing kick-the-can and being grateful that his father, who worked 3 jobs, was not among the legions of the unemployed in the Brooklyn of the 1930’s.

When I became a bartender Dad was all too willing to tell the tale of walking to the local tavern to buy a “bag of ice,” in the days before refrigerators became standard. 

What would Dad think of $1199.00 for a GE 20.3 cubic foot fridge with a bottom freezer?

Mom hailed from New Kensington, PA a manufacturing city 19 miles NW of Pittsburgh.  Her father, Wiley O. Jack was a partner in a local Ford dealership.  During WWII very few cars were manufactured for retail sale as the auto makers of that era, Packard and Studebaker among them, retooled their assembly lines for the war effort.  My maternal grandfather made his living by servicing the cars he had already sold.

On occasion Mom would educate my brother Peter and I about the rationing of sugar, flour and eggs during the Great Depression.

I am on very safe grounds when I forward the thought that neither of my parents would ever think of ‘Black Friday’ as retail therapy.

BLACK FRIDAY prompts memories of my parents both of whom are no longer.  Investopedia tells us that the Black Friday that formed my parents hearts and minds occurred on October 25, 1929 when the stock market lost 11% of its net worth.

This pre-nuclear meltdown turned into a panic as the technology of our simplistic telephone system couldn’t keep up with panicked investors dumping their holdings.  Banks, being substantial institutional investors, lost their worth in the pre-FDIC era and throngs flocked to banks to withdraw their savings while there was still cash to meet their demands.

Black Friday had made a previous appearance in the financial lexicon in the 19th. century on September 24, 1869 when financiers Jay Gould and Jim Fisk sought to corner the gold supply.  When this scheme collapsed it was dubbed ‘Black Friday.’  It is certainly a viable concept that those with an education in the economic history of our country knew of the 1869 scandal when the stock market crash of 1929 occurred.…/grant-black-friday

The contemporary usage of black Friday’s earliest mention seems to have been in January of 1966 when the Philadelphia Police Dept(PPD) used the term to describe the crowds in downtown Philadelphia on the day after Thanksgiving.

In a more casual way the term Black Friday was bandied about by retailers to refer to the final quarter of the year which would pull the given retailer into the ‘black’ of profitability.  Research did not reveal any specific date or author for this phrase but it certainly has been in usage since the beginning of my business awareness,

The 21st. century brought the coinage of ‘Cyber Monday’ referring to the huge volume of online shopping that begins the week after Thanksgiving as those put off by the stampedes of shoppers at brick and mortar locations and with conflicting obligations click on to innumerable web sites to let their cursors do the shopping.

Cyber Monday was coined in 2005, just after Boston became a DSL city in 2003, by the National Retail Federation’s to encourage and promote virtual shopping.

Black Friday didn’t become the catch phrase it is now until the mid-1990s when the World War II generation, which was born in the 1920s as my parents were, began to pass.

Only my aunt Thelma, born 1925, of my older relatives is still with this world of ours.

Contemporary usage of Black Friday no longer carries the baggage it did during my now long-ago youth.

Black Friday is now the brightest of Fridays.




Michio Kushi: July 17,1926-December 28, 2014

January 16, 2015 Leave a comment

Michio Kushi passed on 12/28/2014 from pancreatic cancer. 

The 1st. Unitarian Universalist Arlington St. Church here in Boston will be hosting a memorial service and reception at 12 noon on January 31, 2015

Mr. Kushi was a proponent and teacher of macrobiotics, literally “large life,” and the founder of the Erewhon natural food stores in Boston and Cambridge and the 7th. Inn and Sanae restaurants here in Boston.

Folks are sometimes surprised to learn that  I have been a vegetarian for over 35 years.

It was with sadness that I learned of the passing of Mr. Kushi although we had never met.

Mr. Kushi’s Boston store at 342 Newbury St; currently occupied by a Ralph Lauren ‘Rugby’ store  was where much of my early education as a vegetarian was gleaned.

(Erewhon also had a store on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge, MA between Harvard and Porter Squares).

My veggieism began covertly as even I wasn’t completely cognizant of  the first stirrings of what has come to be a life-long path.  During my very first time living outside of the confines of my Mom I was unwilling to clean and even less willing to spend to purchase meat.  To be sure I was working in restaurants at that time as a dishwasher and busser so flesh was on the menu if not in the refrigerator.

In 1978 I was a 20 year-old Counselor-in-Training at the Unitarian Universalist Rowe Camp and Conference Center Junior High Camp  where I read Frances Lappe’s DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET, 1974, ISBN-13 978-0345321206  (This ISBN is for the 10th Anniversary revised edition).

DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET changed my life forever.  Ms. Lappe’s concentration on eating lower on the food chain by the virtue of protein combinations not only cleansed diets but pointed the way to a sustainable form of food economics.

A year later I was in the midst of my 1st. spring in Boston when I lost my job under nebulous circumstances.  Vowing to eliminate immoral acts from my day-to-day life meat was purged from my diet.

Erewhon became my market.

“Erewhon” is an anagram for “nowhere” and ‘Erewhon’ is an 1872 utopian novel by Samuel Butler about communal living.

Erewhon was well ahead of the curve regarding the availability of items such as soba noodles, wheat grass, bok choi, arugula and mung sprouts at a time when the ‘produce’ section of the Westland Ave. Stop n’ Shop deemed Romaine(Boston) lettuce to be “exotic.”

Erewhon featured framed calligraphy of Mr. Kushi’s thoughts from the exposed brick walls long before they had become a cliche’.

(The exposed brick was the cliche’, not Mr. Kushi’s thoughts).

Mr. Kushi was a proponent of macrobiotics and eschewed red meat, dairy, refined sugar and virtually all added ingredients artificial or not.

Mr Kushi also stressed seasonal and local cuisine to more perfectly attune one to one’s locale.

I followed macrobiotic for several weeks and although I was delighted that my 17th. bout with post-adolescent acne had been quelled the extreme weight loss engendered was not practical for my way of life.  By the end of the summer of 1979 I had phased into the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet that has served me well  to this day.

Erewhon represented a retail culture that is now an endangered species in our smartphone/social media millennium.  I remember very well learning the differences between “wheat” and “whole wheat” and between udon and soba noodles not from the staff but from Erewhon shoppers.  Indeed shopping at Erewhon was nutrition for the intellect as well as the body.

Erewhon had precious little competition for its market of veggies, macrobiotics buffs and what would now be called “foodies”.  Boylston St. offered Nature Food Center which plied enormous 1000 count jars of 500 milligram Vitamin C along with carob coated wheat cookies that tasted like carpet remnants soaked in Nestles’ Quik.

Erewhon offered many tastings of its wares and this budget challenged consumer gleaned small meals from strategic arrivals at 5:30 P.M.  Folks wandered around stuffing themselves with organic figs from Bulk Foods containers long before Whole Foods Market realized that “theft” increased sales and the Whole Foods market demographic could afford the markup that endorsed “theft”.

Sad to say but Erewhon was plagued not just with customers seeking freebies but with rampant shoplifting as the staff was disinclined to interrupt those seeking 5 finger discounts.

“Communalism” is a lofty aspiration but an impractical one at the urban, retail level. 

Many a time I wandered through Erewhon with a bag of autumnal Bartlett pears and whole wheat linguini seeking to pay for my goods at the all-too-often unattended registers.

Erewhon practiced a “non-hierarchical” form of management which manifestly failed to collect the prices charged.

Mr. Kushi’s management acumen was minimal at best.  Mr. Kushi’s restaurants, the 7th. Inn at 288 Boylston St; and Sanae at 324 Newbury St; were interesting attempts to bring macrobiotic cuisine to dining.

The 7th. Inn on Boylston St. in the space now occupied by the Four Seasons Hotel was the loftier of the two as the 7th. Inn featured table service from servers in brownish aprons and white shirts without ties.  Even the modest prices of their brown rice and sea vegetables were above my ken at the time so I never sampled the fare.

A press release heralding the opening of the original Sanae notes  that “the SANAE faculty graduated from the heavy hippy drug scene”.

Bon appetit!

Sanae on Newbury St. fared better as it offered counter service only and a hand-lettered selection whiteboard enabling guests to mix and match proteins, veggies and starches.  Sanae was open for several years and closed abruptly in 1982 before re-opening in 1983 as…the 7th. Inn!… before shuttering for good later in 1983.

Erewhon’s food distribution business likewise closed in 1983 although cereal with the “Erewhon” monicker is till sold here in the 21st. Century at my local Whole Foods Market. Erewhon’s website:

is unclear as to whether the current business sprouted from Mr. Kushi’s.  Tony and Joesephine Antoci bought Erewhon in 2011.  The website notes that “since the late 60s” Erewhon has been in the natural foods business.  It is not clear whether this Los Angeles based company bought the name or the business in its entirety.  Any further information on this matter would be welcomed by this author.

Mr. Kushi crossed my mind from time to time as I shopped at such  grocers  as Jamaica Plain’s original Arborway Natural which put a familiar face on wholesome food.  Bread & Circus, especially in its Westland Ave; Fenway store organized the shelves, brought in bar codes and was eventually bought out by corporate behemoth Whole Foods Market in 2003.

Today Whole Foods Market operates a 59,000 square foot supermarket in Manhattan’s Time-Warner building.

While Mr. Kushi was far from the ideal CEO he brought to Boston a dietary awareness that had been flying underneath the radar for some time.

“Food faddists” and “health nuts” were the tags attached to pioneers such as Adelle Davis whose LETS EAT RIGHT TO KEEP FIT in 1954, ISBN 4-87187-961-5 and Euell Gibbons’ STALKING THE WILD ASPARAGUS of 1962, ISBN-10 0911469036.  Both Ms. Davis and Mr. Gibbons earned the attention and couch of Johnny Carson.

Mr. Kushi was in the right place at the right time culturally as baby boomers aged into the thoughtful eating that would become the “foodie” market of our 21st. Century.

Having said that, Mr. Kushi’s holistic happenstance approach to business has been emulated by no one.  Indeed, his message might have had significantly more effect had his stores had been profitable.

It is a testament to the worth of his ideals that his influence is noted by many including this scribe.

Mr. Kushi was years ahead of the curve in making available tamari, sea vegetables and an array of Asian wheat and rice noodles.

Locavores and vegans are the unwitting progeny of Mr. Kushi.

Mr. Kushi seems to have been a more than decent man in his personal life, opening his Brookline home to many and living in accordance to his ideals.

Mr. Kushi’s philosophy and diet are not exactly mine.  But like Stephen Gaskin of the Farm in Summertown, Tennessee and the author of “Hey, Beatnik” his ideas contributed much to my collage as much as for what they aren’t as for what the ideas are.

Mr. Kushi, thank you.

Peace, Steve


PASSING, MUSIC, HIP-HOP: Big Bank Hank(Henry Lee Jackson) of the Sugarhill Gang January 11, 1956-November 11, 2014

November 16, 2014 1 comment

Big Bank Hank(Henry Lee Jackson) of the hip-hop crew the Sugarhill Gang, passed on November 11, 2014 of kidney failure resulting from cancer.

Big Bank Hank’s contributions to the seminal hip-hop hit “Rapper’s Delight” popularized phrases such as “hotel, motel, Holiday Inn…Superman…a fairy…why do you suppose, flying though the air in his panty hose…drive off in a def O.J.”  in a decidedly less politically correct time.  Indeed, a reference to the time when O.J. Simpson was known for being the “Superstar of Rent-a-Car” would be archaic if it were not so disingenuous.

“Rapper’s Delight” is the single most important popular song in my time of being an ear.

Only Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” which is the root of EDM, Desmond Dekker and the Rhythm Aces’ “Israelites,” the first U.S. mainland reggae hit and ABBA’s “Waterloo” which crossed over the Atlantic Ocean from Sweden to the U.S; can come close to “Rapper’s Delight” in creating an everlasting form AND audience.

Not only was “Rapper’s Delight” a  hit and a genre; 2 words, “hip-hop”, as declaimed by Wonder Mike, as the very first 2 words in the rap formed a name for the  genre sired by the Sugarhill Band’s Doug Wimbish as Mr. Wimbish purloined Bernard Edwards’ bassline from Chic’s “Good Times”.

“Rapper’s Delight” was performed with a live studio band before scratching, let alone sampling, became the building blocks of hip-hop.

Hip-hop, like its alternative distant cousins, punk and disco, was a creation AND product of independent record labels at a time when vinyl defined technology and markets.  The Sugarhill Gang, appropriately enough was on Sylvia Roberson’s Sugarhill Records and the “original” version was on a 12″ disc.

A loose confederacy of ears; college radio, club kids, post-midnight radio and independent record stores, challenged the oligarchy of the major record labels and spawned hip-hop’s fledgling artists.

Yes, “Rapper’s Delight” was as much of a slap in the face to the R&B, disco and funk of the time as the Ramones’ “Blitzkreig Bop” was to progressive rock.  My ears approved of both and my heart cast the verdict in a way that today’s iTunes/smartphone generation can scarcely imagine without asking their folks.

 (The Sugarhill Gang’s Sugarhill Records was owned by Sylvia Robinson.  Ms. Robinson’s lengthy resume’ includes singing “Love is Strange” as part of Mickey & Sylvia in 1962 and preserved in DIRTY DANCING.  Ms. Robinson wrote, produced and  voiced the proto-disco hit “Pillow Talk” as Sylvia.  Ms. Robinson also wrote the Persuasions “Love on a Two Way Street” which became the track for the Jay Z./Alicia keys “Empire State” hit of 2009.  Indeed, Ms. Robinson is worthy of historic canonization. Stay tuned).

“Rapper’s Delight” was an instant sensation far exceeding its Billboard charting.  Making its 1st. appearance months after its summer release it made the charts on 10/13/1979 eventually peaking at #36 Pop/# Soul Singles as “hip-hop” had not made its way into marketing lexicon.…

In the snap of a finger(s), Northeastern University’s WRBB “The Spice in Your Life” under the helm of Eddie Cue, put the record into heavy rotation.  Northeastern’s Ell Center echoed with “The beat don’t stoppa ’til the break of dawn,” as students attempting to “study” were perplexed by this new sound.

The Ell Center cafeteria soon offered students, not all of them black by any means, shouting out, “The chicken tastes like wood,” long before Kiga offered soba noodles in hoisin sauce.

“Rapper’s Delight” is almost certainly the only pop hit, let alone hip-hop track, to reference Kaopectate!

The Boston-Boston Discotheque, now the site of the House of Blues, featured men proclaiming that the “women fight for my delight” with all of the enthusiasm, and none of the charm of Big Bank Hank.

During that summer of 1979 my brother Peter visited my furnished room and we delighted in yelling out “super sperm” with Big Bank Hank as the 12″ rotated on the turntable of my Panasonic compact stereo.

Of Henry Lee Jackson, the man himself, little is revealed by research.  Mr. Jackson graduated with an Associate of Science degree from Bronx Community College and was making pizza while working nights as a doorman at the Sparkle club in the Bronx when “Rapper’s Delight” was recorded.


The Sugarhill Gang were true pioneers insofar as naming and claiming hip-hop.  “Rapper’s Delight” proved to be their biggest hit although “Apache”s appropriation of the Incredible Bongo Band’s “Bongo Rock” enlivened an Iota Theta step show held in the Northeastern Quadrangle after my Finance class in 1981.

By 1983 DJ scratching and the exhortations of Run-DMC, among many others, had seized the burgeoning hip-hop market.  The Sugarhill Gang continued to appear in various lineups while enmeshed in the prolonged litigation all too common among young artists and those in the employ of Sylvia Robinson, whose many talents did not include accounting.

“Rapper’s Delight ” sounds as simplistic and boyish today…as it did when it was born.  The adolescent joy of the track is entirely appropriate to the newborn genre.  Indeed, while pubescent rappers abound  the house party vibe of “Rapper’s Delight” has retained the cheery amateurism that all too many have aspired to all too strenuously. The genuine musicality of the Doug Wimbish/Chic bassline is truly a template for melody that sets up the pentameter of Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike and Mastergee(the Baby of the Bunch).

Big Bank Hank’s gleeful “Hoo ha, keep you all in check,” found its way into the flow of Busta Rhymes and innumerable other acts even while his name was referenced by none that I can recall.

Was Big Bank Hank an “artist?”  It’s a close call and the tangle of copyright law, artistic property and rights of publicity intrinsic to hip-hop sheds no light on the question.

Certainly talking blues is a style that goes back to the Mississippi delta.   Charley Ryan’s “Hot Rod Lincoln” as covered by Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen brought Western Swing’s “calling” to the Top 40 as a novelty hit in 1971, #9 Pop/#51 Country.

Indeed, James Brown’s gruff spoken exhortations in “Hot Pants” and “Make It Funky” are precursors to hip-hop.

Big Bank Hank and “Rapper’s Delight” is to hip-hop what the Model A Ford was to cars.  It identified a form that had been percolating and gave it a name…and that is something.

“Rapper’s Delight” is the single most important  song in the life of my ears.

Age has its blessings and having my ears remember the dawn of a form is among them.



“..cause I shock the house…”




2014: Seasons Change, NBA & MLB, Light days, Dark days

November 4, 2014 Leave a comment


As November is now in full effect Daylight Savings Time has ended and the dark days are upon us here in Boston.

Ever since I was 10 years old I have associated Halloween, the end of Daylight Savings Time and the end of baseball as a single entity that forms the cusp of daily Autumnal life.

Thus, this blog will be devoted to a roll-call of those changes.

To wit:

Light days: Spring ahead, clocks advance 1 hour

Dark days: Fall back, clocks fall back 1 hour

Light days: Easter celebrates Christ’s Resurrection, birth and solstice

Dark days: Halloween celebrates paganism, death and equinox

Light days body: Losing, thus winning

Dark days body: Gaining, thus losing

Light days seasonal affective disorder(SAD): Lana Del Ray’s “Summertime Sadness,” Martin Gervais remix

Dark days seasonal affective disorder(SAD): Waking up in darkness and coming home from work in darkness.

Light days communication: Calling

Light days communication: Texting

Light days mixed emotions song: “Seasons Change,” Expose’

Dark days mixed emotions: “Hazy Shade of Winter,” by Paul Simon, as performed by The Bangles

Light days metaphorical song: “Spring Affair,” Donna Summer

Dark days metaphorical song: “Frosty the Snowman,” by Gene Autry, as performed by The Ronettes

MLB: Hot Stove league

NBA: Tip-off

MLB: Mets, Red Sox,

NBA: Celtics, Nets

MLB fan style: Fervent fan

NBA fan style: Frustrated jock

MLB logo: Harmon Killebrew

NBA logo: Jerry West

MLB: hatred: N.Y. Yankees

NBA hatred: N.Y. Knicks

Light days international Boston athlete: Koji Uehara, Japanese relief pitcher of the Boston Red Sox

Dark days international Boston athlete: Zdeno Chara, Czechoslovakian, now the Czech Republic, defenseman of the Boston Bruins

Light days: Iced coffee

Dark days: Coffee with Kahlua and DiSarrono Originale

Light days: Rum and Pinot Grigio

Dark days: Irish whiskey and Rioja

Light days: Bicycling

Dark days: Weightlifting

Light days: Popper cargo shorts

Dark days: Columbia down

Light days: College crews row on the Charles

Dark days: Collegiate party animals fall on their butts “skating” on the Frog Pond at the Boston Common

Light days: Boston Red Sox theme song of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”.

Dark days: Boston Celtics theme song of Guns & Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.”

Light days hipster gear: Needless hats

Dark days hipster gear: Needed hats

Light days: Midterms

Dark days: Finals

Light days: Memorial Day

Dark Days: Black Friday

Light days commercially viable: sunblock goes on sale at CVS on Easter

Dark days commercially viable: Christmas stuff goes on sale at CVS on Halloween

Light days politically incorrect: Merry Christmas!

Dark days politically correct: Happy Holidays!

Light days oldie: Beach Boys’ ENDLESS SUMMER

Dark days oldie: Phil Spector’s A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR YOU

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