Issue 41: the art of pizza by seamus o’conner

my new friends, Sheri and Shari over at this joy + ride have featured me in their new issue of the their fantastic blog. Take a look.

I found their blog about 8-10 months ago. I look forward to the new issues that come out on the 1st and 15th of every month.

They have archived their last forty artists. Check them out. There are some very talented people making terrific art.

Some pizza from today. Please tell when you’ve had enough pizza.

Los Angeles?

As everyone knows Los Angeles is a huge metropolis that stretches from the ocean to the mountains. When I am wrapped up in the myriad streets and highways amongst the hot pavement and dirty concrete I lose sight of the fact that only a few miles away nature lurks in a most primitive and wonderful way.

Today my son Patrick and I hiked in the foothills of Sierra Madre. We started early about 8:30am, but it was already scorching hot. The trail was dusty and the heat came in waves. As we walked we found pockets of cooler air, but for the most part the whole walk felt like a big open sauna. Midway through the climb my shirt was drenched. My feet were dusty. My camera was even wet with the perspiration from my t-shirt and my legs ached.

At one point while we ascended a small narrow trail consisting of stacked stones I slipped and fell. It was no big deal. My son was cruising along and I was pushing myself to stay close. The tip of my foot slid off the slippery stone and the old man hit the dirt. My son turned around and looked at me like “What”. This ain’t even in the least bit difficult.

I am 48. My son is 18 and I felt every bit the 48 year old.

We made it to the cut off point. The trail dropped under some oak trees and we stopped by the creek to catch our breath and drink some water that had become lukewarm. Nothing like drinking warm water when your throat is parched. (I should not complain. The water was good).

I took a bunch of pictures. The light was streaming through the trees and it caught the running creek nicely.

A song that Alison from and flowers pick themselves introduced me to. Johnny Flinn- Kentucky Pill

Seamus O’Conner’s Pizza will be featured on this joy + ride starting tomorrow until the end of July.

Summertime in the city

It’s hot in LA. We’re trying to refrain from using the AC to save on the electric bill. So far so good. We have only used it a couple of times, but we find ourselves hot and sticky and a little cranky. It’s funny how one can become cranky in the summer when there’s no school and the days are long and the BBQ is sizzling with sweet corn and ribs. Yet it happens.

Maybe we’ll eat some watermelon and  when it cools down enough to close the windows a bit we’ll eat some ice cream from big bowls and watch the tube. Nothing better on a summer nite

here are a few summertime photographs from the neighborhood.

I was introduced to some new music.  A t least it’s new to me. I hope you enjoy.

The Walkmen-In the new year

Mumford and Sons-Liar

The kitchen

I gravitate to the kitchen. It pulls me in no matter where I am. If I am in someone’s home I’m leaning over a pot on the stove or my hands are deep in the sink doing dishes. When I am at work you can find me in the kitchen cooking something or eating tacos with the guys or listening to a fellow worker talk about his kids.

It started when I was very very young. Maybe as young as 5. I remember hanging out with my grandmother who we called Nana. She was always in the kitchen and I was usually by her side. She made this bread that I came to love for so many reasons. Number one it tasted great. The bread was a gooey cinnamon bread with raisins. She allowed the dough to rise over night. In the morning she rolled it out and sprinkled the dough with cinnamon and sugar and raisins. When it baked all that sugar and cinnamon and raisins oozed out of the crevices. We used to cut it into slices and toast it and then smear lots of butter on it.

I hung out with Nana in her kitchen because I knew I would be eating some of that cinnamon bread, but also because I felt at home there. I don’t know why. It felt natural. Maybe it was the smells, the heat, the feel of the dough, the taste of whatever Nana cooked. I am not sure.

Today it’s still the same. I find myself in the kitchen, but I am joined by everyone in the family. Yesterday Patrick and I grilled bruschetta on a flat top grill for lunch. We topped it with sauteed onions and Serrano peppers. We grilled a tomato from the garden, salted it and topped the bread with it.

For dinner we grilled flat bread, made a salad of raddicchio and arugula with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and I fired up some salmon on the BBQ.

Then we ate together in front of the TV which we never do unless there is a basketball game or in the case of last night “The Decision”. Yikes. I can’t believe we all sat and watched that show for an hour.

I spent some time in two other kitchen the last two days. I visited a previous employer and hung out with the kitchen guys.  I have worked with these guys 15 years. We laughed and told jokes. Many of the same jokes and stories we have told for all those years. Everything was the same but we were older.

Yesterday I hung out with a relatively new friend who is opening a taqueria in Los Angeles. He’s a great cook. I gave him some advice, but really just hung out talking and eating. He made carne asada tacos with diced onions, cilantro and a really nice spicy chili sauce.

He is a vegan pastry specialist so I got to eat lots of sweets. I even brought some home. We savored them in front of the TV after the King had made his decision. Long live the King and long live the kitchen where you will find me most of the time.

The Olive Harvest

The tree stood alone in the yard behind the 500 year old apartment. There were other trees nearby, a fig tree, peach tree and another smaller olive tree, but this particular tree in all of it’s abundance clearly was superior to the rest. Deep purple olives littered the branches. There were more olives than leaves and each one was spectacular.

I pulled one from the branch with my index finger and  thumb.. It was plump and sturdy. There were no blemishes to be found. I was tempted to bite into it, but I remembered the last time I did so. The bitterness overwhelmed me. I consumed a gallon of water to wash out my mouth, but the nasty taste lingered and spoiled all my meals for the rest of the day.

I had a baby blue bucket by my feet. I reached up into the branches and using two fingers I ripped the olives into the bucket beneath my hand. They dropped heavily into the bucket and a distinct sound ricocheted off the massive stone walls of the village. I scurried around the tree working diligently. The olives fell. They filled the bucket rapidly. My arms tired a bit from the over extension so I stopped and stood back to admire the tree some more. I had not made even a perceptible dent in the tree. It was still as abundant as when I had arrived and I now had a three quarter full bucket of olives.

I climbed back in and finished up. The bucket was overflowing with purple olives. They looked like oval marbles the  kids used to play with before the great invention of video games. Some of them still had green by the stem which reflected in the pale light.

I reached down and wrapped my calloused hand arround the metal handle. It was cold to the touch. I yanked on it. The bucket was much heavier than I had imagined, but I got it up and stood as straight as I could and began my walk. To the other apartment.

It was a short walk on the cobblestone path. The sky was grey. People passed me. Some said buona sera. Others just looked in the bucket and smiled. A few older gents nodded and pretended to reach their hands into the bucket thinking they were being funny.

When I reached the apartment aptly named 9 square meter because of it’s massive size I placed the bucket in the alcove by the stairs. I was damn content. I had a full bucket of my own bloody olives that would be cured and smoked by my friend Stefano.

Fifteen months later when I returned, Stefano presented me with a large plastic bag full of my shriveled black olives. They were half the size of the olives I harvested. They looked like raisins, black as coal, but with a substantial pit beneath the skin. I wrapped the bag in a dishtowel and tucked them in my suitcase for the return trip to America.

Cool Stuff

Everybody has it. Everybody longs for cool stuff. It’s like a craving that never gets satisfied like that cigarette habit that lingers for 20 years or so until the lungs can’t take it anymore and the cigarettes are tossed down the toilet for the last time.

For some of us that cool stuff ends up in the garage next to broken down refrigerators, rusty tools and crusty paint cans that haven’t seen the light of day for years.

Others model their cool stuff for all to see making shrines on their cabinets in the dining room or living room. Guests envy the cool stuff. In their minds they picture their stuff collecting dust in the garage and wonder if it can look as special as this cool stuff.

I never had a lot of cool stuff even though I wanted it like every kid did and when I grew older I wanted it just as much. I kept some bottle caps and coins that I found in the alley behind our house.

When I was a grown man I bought a Walter’s beer bottle when I was out in the Mohave desert with my brother in law and his family. The bottle was deep brown with a classic red and white label. I have kept that bottle for years. Lately it’s been tucked in a dresser drawer with cds that come with any type of electronic equipment that one buys these days and other junk(not even cool stuff) wires and cables that I should throw away, but I am always worried I might need.

Today I dropped by an antique shop. My intention was to take a photograph or two. When I entered I found the space to be the epitome of COOLness. The stuff was staged like a movie set.  A  corner resembled a science fiction location. Another portion of the shop displayed the heads and masks of sad and happy faces. Appearing to be  not a movie set, but surely a museum of sorts.

I came across a stunt man’s jacket. It was a deep blue with a stunt man patch above the right pocket. I fantasized wearing it to a bowling alley just for kicks, but it would have to be one of those really old time bowling alleys where a guy in the back reset the pins. Maybe I could sell him the jacket.

Here are a few of the photographs I took. I hope you enjoy them.

Happy Fourth of July. Be safe and if you’re going to be playing with fireworks remember to get out of the way fast. They have a very short fuse.

Hipstamatic Pizza

I know you are damn tired of hearing about pizza. bears and the occasional espresso. I’ve got a one track mind and it leads right down to my stomach. Please bear with me. HA HA.

No bears last night. We all slept pretty well. He might be on vacation or in the pool down the street. Maybe the wind wasn’t blowing in his direction so he couldn’t get a whiff of the pepperoni pizza .  If he had he surely would’ve been digging in the trash  for pizza scraps.

I took my son’s advice yesterday. He has been talking about the temperature of the oven so yesterday we built a bonfire in the oven. There were logs wedged into every nook in that dome oven.  After 3  hours the thermostat registered 825 degrees and it kept on rising. Previously we had seen the needle stop at about 700 degrees.

I will tell you. It is absolutely amazing to bake a pizza in scorching hot oven. The minute it hits the floor of the oven the sizzle starts. The cheese starts bubbling. The pepperoni curls up around the edges. The crust starts to burn just a bit. In due minuti, presto it’s ready.

By far and away, the pizza yesterday was the best. Everything was just right, the cheese, the crust (it had beautiful burn marks) and the sauce. Rosie from the Italian deli insisted I buy a particular brand from Sicily. Rosie says things like “Let me tell you. This is the best. You need to try this one. You’ll be really happy with this sauce.” I felt like I had no choice. He had a gun to my head. Buy this pizza sauce or else. I bought the sauce. I always get this weird sense of guilt when I disappoint an Italian. They look at you with those sad eyes and frown like you have just done something really bad.

I woke up this morning thinking about it. I could still taste the charred crust. Many years ago I woke up thinking about my first cigarette of the day. Now I’m waking up thinking about wood fired pizza. I guess it’s a little better for you than a cigarette. (Some might argue No)

I’ve been told by my wife no more pizza for a while. She sick of eating pizza. How could that be? We only made it 3 times this week and then ordered it on Friday night from Mamma Petrillos. Siamo pazzi? (are we crazy)

At least you won’t have to read about pizza for a few days.

For a little variation to the pizza theme I took pictures with the hipstamatic app on the I-phone. Hope you enjoy.

Vegan Almond Caffe Latte

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