Monday, December 5, 2011

Get your kicks...

Early on a chilly Tuesday morning in October 1963, the 4th day of our adventure, my friend Jerry & I were woken by an Indiana State Trooper pounding on the window of Jerry's old Rambler station wagon.  He informed us that it was illegal to not bother anybody by sleeping in the car in a State Police parking lot along side US 40. We thanked him for the wake-up call and continued our Westward journey, crossing most of Illinois before the sun came up. At about 9 am we stopped for breakfast in East St. Louis, and in an hour we crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri. There, as we made our way through morning traffic in St. Louis, we came upon the famous Route 66. The next three days we got our kicks. Westward through Springfield and Joplin we rode through small towns and farmlands spotted with more fireworks stands than Jerry & I had ever seen. Somewhere along the way we found an all night gas station that let us park and sleep. And then we hit Kansas. Grazed it actually. Route 66 cut through the Southeast corner of Kansas and at 60 miles an hour we were through with just a fading memory of roadside sunflowers and a sign that said Galena. We headed Southwest across Oklahoma past Tulsa and Oklahoma City, and into Texas. It had been a hot and dry Summer everywhere and that area was burned brown. Cactus, scrub brush and oil wells were all that grew along the road. It wasn't long before the countryside started to sprout neon and sleazy looking bars & motels. We stopped in beautiful downtown Amarillo for the night. Sleazy or not, a shower and a real bed felt good.
Thursday morning we headed West into the mountains of New Mexico. We had Buffalo Burgers in Tucumcari and pushed on through Albequerque into Arizona to the Petrified Forest, Winslow and Flagstaff where we stopped for the night. Friday was a long, busy day that began at 5 am. We headed north to the Grand Canyon, about which I will only say, "No picture can capture it. You MUST see it." Way too soon we were back on Route 66 and crossing the Great Divide at 5 mph, pushing the poor old rambler over the crest. (No, I am not kidding.) Then we crossed the Hoover Dam (Incredible!) into Nevada. We stopped for gas and played our first one-armed bandits. The gas station had a dozen five-cent machines. I won 60 cents. It was getting dark as we crossed the Mojave desert through Barstow and into Bakersfield and the end of Route 66. One more night in the car and in the Saturday morning fog we headed North through the San Joaquin Valley lettuce fields to San Francisco. 48 years ago.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

...and More Pizza

In a previous lifetime, when I attended the University of Maine in Orono, I often visited a tavern/pizza joint in the town called Pat’s Pizza. Pat Farnsworth had originally opened a tavern there in the 30′s and it had evolved into a beer and pizza place for the nearby University. Back in those days, alcohol was forbidden on campus so everyone walked the mile or so to the town center and at some point during the evening would end up at Pat’s. The beer was cold, the pizza was hot and the music was loud. One of my fondest memories from that time is of my last beer at Pat’s. I was sitting downstairs in the Tap Room with 2-3 friends and about halfway through a beer when Pat came over to the table and whispered iin my ear, "Tommy, I know you are underaged. Put the beer down, get up and say goodnight to your friends and get out!" By the time I could have gone back, I lived in California.
I mention this because on the 1st, as we do once a month, Don & I went to Pat’s for a pizza. Pat has passed on, but his family keeps it going. The pizza is still the best and I suspect it is because it’s the same oven and the same pans from 50 years ago. Come to think of it, some of the waitresses may be the same too. Not so many students now in this age where University cafeterias have beer on draft, but lots of people my age who just can’t stop eating that pizza.


When I was a kid there was no Pizza Hut, There was no Pizza-Roma. There was no Tri-City Pizza. There may have been pizza but NOT in Bangor, Maine. The idea wasn’t even alien. It simply didn’t cross anybody’s mind. One evening in 1949 that all changed.
We were all gathered in the living room after dinner, doing what ever we did before television. I was probably abusing my younger brother and Mom & Dad were reading. I’m sure Dad was engrossed in an adventure novel (10 cent paperback) and Mom was reading a magazine. (Family Circle, Woman’s Day or Good Housekeeping.)
There must have been a lull in the bullying of my brother because I remember my Mom ask Dad, “What are anchovies?” He glanced up from his book and said, “Little fish, like sardines.” Then Mom asked, “What is Mozzarella?” Dad answered, “It’s cheese, a soft cheese from Italy.” (Dad had been to Italy so he was an expert.) In another minute, Mom asked. “What is Marinara?” Dad answered without looking up from his book, “Tomato sauce, Italian style, with oregano.” “What’s oregano?” “It’s like pepper but leaves.” Quiet descended. In a few minutes, Mom got up and magazine in hand headed for the kitchen. Cooking sounds followed.
Mom came and went from the living room for an hour or so and finally yelled for me to help her in the kitchen. I helped carry 4 plates of something square and colorful to the living room and we all tried something Mom said was Pizza for the first time. It was an odd, but not unpleasant taste and we all made short work of it. She said, “I didn’t have everything in the recipe so I made some substitutions. The bread is just a regular bread dough stretched to fit a cookie sheet and flattened out. I didn’t have Marinara which Dad said was tomato sauce. I didn’t even have any tomato sauce in the cupboard so I used tomato paste and spread it over the bread, The only cheese I had was Velveeta so I used that instead of mozzarella. I’ve never even seen an anchovy so I used sardines. I just used black pepper instead of oregano. How did you like it?”
We loved it. And it became a regular item at our house. It was about another 10 years before I had what we call pizza today. It took a while to get used to it.