Saturday, October 11, 2014

Cranberries, Books, and Doo-Wop

It was pouring like mad when I turned on this week's American Top 40 re-run. Casey took us back to early October 1976, when R&B, bubblegum pop, and hard rock were the going genres...but that new disco sound was really starting to make waves. Hits that fall included "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight" by England Dan and John Ford Cooley, "Wham Bam" by Silver, "Still the One" by Orleans, "Devil Woman" by Cliff Richard, "Shake Your Booty" by K.C and the Sunshine Band, "Say That You Love Me" by Fleetwood Mac, "Disco Duck" by Rick Dees, "If You Leave Me Now" by Chicago, "A Little Bit More" by Dr. Hook, "Play That Funky Music" by Wild Cherry, and the remake of "I Only Wanna Be With You" by the Bay City Rollers.

That week's #1 hit was, as Casey pointed out, 200 years in the making - Walter Murphy's remix of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, retitled "A Fifth of Beethoven."

It was still raining hard when the show ended. I waited over an hour and a half before I headed out for my Saturday errands. I went online. I read my old journals in the back room. I watched one of two horror-themed episodes Jim Henson did for The Muppet Show. Vincent Price added a touch of spooky class to an episode in the late first season. Meanwhile, Kermit and Scooter deal with a three-headed-monster who wants to get onstage.

The rain finally slowed down enough for me to head out around quarter of 11. After a quick but fruitless search for a yard sale in Oaklyn that was supposed to be held on a porch, I headed right to the Collingswood Farm Market. It closes at noon and is held in any weather. Needless to say, while they were busy, they weren't quite as packed as usual. Peaches and cucumbers are gone, but I did see the first cranberries and Brussels sprouts of the season. I ended up with the aforementioned cranberries and Brussels sprouts, broccoli, a small orange cauliflower, mini Gala apples, and a tomato.

It showered while I was at the Farm Market. By the time I was heading down Collings Avenue, the rain had stopped for the time being. The Collingswood Book Festival was moved to the Collingswood High School and Middle School building, thanks to the weather. The sidewalks were so busy, when I got about a block from the school, I got off my bike and walked.

There was a mob scene when I arrived. The larger used book sales were in tents and under the school's front entrance. It wasn't any less busy the further one went inside. The kids' area in the middle school cafeteria and the nearby hallways were especially crazy. It was such a mess, the musical groups were playing in the hallways! The tents and front entrance were too narrow for all the people shopping. I could barely move without hitting someone's bag or elbow. The writers' area in the high school gym was only slightly less crazy.

Despite the huge crowds, I made the best haul I ever got at the Book Festival from those busy used stands. From the front entrance and tents, I picked up for 3 dollars for the lot:

Wishing For Tomorrow, a sequel to one of my favorite books, A Little Princess

A Mickey Mouse Golden Book for my nephew Khai for Christmas

Holly Hobbie's Cookbook, a kid's cookbook featuring one of my favorite early childhood characters

The Liveliest Art, a book about the history of the American movie industry

License to Kill on DVD, one of the few James Bond movies I didn't have.

And a CD. Cherry Poppin' Daddies - Zoot Suit Riot

One of the used sellers had nothing but enormous hardback coffee table books for 5 dollars each. It was a hard choice, but I only had room for one. I ended up with Doo Wop: The Music, The Times, the Era. I used to love listening to the early rock and doo-wop of the 50s and 60s on South Jersey oldies stations as a kid. Living in Wildwood rekindled my fondness for the sleek styles of the era.

Since I was in the area, I next made a stop at CVS. I needed mostly tooth-cleaning items - toothbrushes, dental floss, brush pick inserts. I also picked up relish for the dinner I was planning for that night.

I was originally going to have lunch at Sorrento's on Collings Avenue. The traffic was so bad down at the corner of Collings and the White Horse Pike, I just opted to go to quieter Oaklyn instead. I had my slices of cheese and mushroom pizza and can of Pepsi Next at Phillies Phatties. It was 1:30 by the time I had lunch. They were busy with high school boys watching college football games and yakking with their pals. By the time I finished, the boys were done as well. I was the only diner left.

I spent the next few hours listening to 50s rock, putting everything I bought at the Farm Market and Book Festival away, and looking over that Doo Wop book. The rain was gone for good by then, but it remained cold and cloudy. Even if my legs and knees weren't beyond sore, it was still no day to be running around.

The Doo Wop book was fascinating. In addition to discussing the vocal bands who had even one huge chart hit from 1945 to 1966 (and the list of one-hit wonders was staggering), there were sidebars on other things going on in that era - the rise of the Cold War and McCarthyism, Levittown, the huge epic movies that were supposed to lure people from their new TVs, the TV dinners that gave Mom more time to watch her favorite shows, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, James Dean, Jackie Robinson and the slow end of segregation in sports, the Civil Rights movement. Quite a few Philadelphia bands had hits in this era, and while most of them faded with the others after one song, at least two - Patti LaBelle and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes - continued making hits well into the 70s. (LaBelle, in fact, would have her biggest hit in the mid-70s, the #1 smash "Lady Marmalade.")

I hopped into the bath around 4:30. Ahhhhh. I totally needed that. I literally worked all week, and when I wasn't working, I was getting things done at home. It felt wonderful to lean back and listen to jazz while going over Christmas craft books and getting ideas for holiday gifts.

When I finally dragged myself out, I started my big dinner idea. I've had ground chicken sitting in the freezer for a while. I wanted to do something different with it than the usual meatloaf, chili, or burgers. I remembered that Mom used to make a very tasty Hamburger Pie every now and then for us for dinner. I attempted a crust, but I made it too sticky and couldn't roll it out right. The filling came out much better. I used a variation on a Hamburger Pie recipe in my 50s Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. Replaced green beans with diced red and yellow pepper and mushrooms (I didn't have any green beans), added the relish I bought at CVS (Mom used to chop pickles and add them to her hamburger pie) and an egg, kept the tomato sauce and diced onion. Topped it with Colby cheese from the Farm Market instead of mashed potatoes. (I only have sweet potatoes here, and I don't think that'll work with hamburger pie.)

Oh yummmmm. It was absolutely delicious. Sweet and savory all at once, with a buttery, tangy crust. I may have to try this again, being more careful with the crust this time.

Ran Scooby Doo on Zombie Island while I made dinner. The first in the long line of direct-to-home-media Scooby movies brings the gang back together to help Daphne hunt down real ghosts, rather than the fake businesspeople dressed as ghosts they always seem to find. They get more real ghosts than they bargained for when they find themselves stranded on an island in Louisiana that's home to two mysterious women who live in a plantation...and quite a few zombies, wolf men, and cat creatures. This 1998 feature was so well-received, it revived Scooby for a whole new generation. While it's still good today, it's also one of the very few Scooby media to play the horror angle totally straight; definitely not for younger kids. Older kids and even teens who love Scooby and horror may enjoy this one.

Switched to some of my public domain Popeye shorts as I cleaned up from dinner. Popeye and Olive are "Spooky Swabs" when they find themselves on an abandoned ship filled with ghosts who just want them to leave. It's a "Fright to the Finish" when Bluto spends his Halloween night trying to scare Olive away from Popeye. Popeye shows that he'd can dish out the tricks as well as the treats when he eats spinach and turns the tables on Bluto.

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