Thursday, July 24, 2014

Shahbaz Bashir has some thoughts. (Updated)

I seem to have ticked somebody off on the internet.  In the interest of fairness, I will let him have his say.  I just received this thought-provoking private message from the little fella on Facebook -

Shahbaz Bashir is apparently a fine young gentleman in Pakistan, in Azizabad, Sindh, who thinks unkindly of me.  If he'd like to expand upon his earlier thesis, hopefully he'll do it here, in order so that I may understand just why I need to self-fornicate, and also precisely what this articulate young man's problem with my mother is.

Update: (07.25.14) my new friend decided to expand upon his thoughts last night.  While also appearing at one point to argue with himself.  More messages below the fold...

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Rocco's: The Best $6 Sandwich in Philadelphia

Yeah, I'm just gonna go ahead and make that claim.  This is the best $6 sandwich ($5.90, actually) in Philadelphia.

2539 Castor Ave, Philadelphia PA 19134

With a name like Rocco's, you know what to expect here.  Goat cheese and roasted beet sandwiches with arugula and an herb vinaigrette on whole wheat sourdough ciabatta*, of course.

No, I kid.  You will find Italian sausage and cheesesteaks at Rocco's.

Attached to four Home Depots in Philadelphia, with a fifth location in Long Island City, NYC, I headed on over to the Castor stand in Port Richmond this morning on my way back home from the Chestnut Hill Growers' Market.  Upon arrival at the stand, I was immediately offered a fine toothpick with an even finer, quite large sample chunk of Sweet Italian (do I look like a sweet guy?) sausage, fresh off the grill.

The 'small' Hot Italian Sausage sandwich w/ fried peppers, onions and brown mustard.  10 inches of excellence for $5.90
Located in the 'heart' of the tragic mess that is the 'Aramingo Shopping District,' a ghastly, cultural wasteland of big boxes, strip malls, asphalt parking oceans and national chain eateries along a 50-feet-too-wide highway-like stretch of Aramingo Avenue with gaping curb cuts every fifteen to twenty feet for over a mile, someone like me would have to really be in the mood for a great sandwich to willingly venture into this void which combines all of the worst things about the latter half of last century's 'development' patterns in what is otherwise one of the most walkable cities on earth.

But yes, I was in the mood for a great sandwich.  Very much so, in fact.


We certainly all wish we could enjoy such a mustardy onion & pepper blanket from time to time.
Great char on the coils of sausage (hot or sweet) which are grilled on the flat-top right in the front window of the stand (couldn't get close enough to take a picture of the grill, but their Facebook page has good shots), and perfectly cooked onions and peppers.  The brown mustard ties together the classic Italian-American comfort food combination, and the long roll does its job adequately, holding up right until the very end.

I haven't had a sausage sandwich this good since drunken teenage summer nights down the Jersey Shore almost twenty years ago now.  And I'm sure those sandwiches weren't near as good as this.  A truly great sandwich I will definitely be back for again.  Rocco's also has cheesesteaks, chicken, breakfast sandwiches, and other such things.  I have heard good things about their cheesesteak, though I wish they wouldn't call them "Philly Cheese Steaks."  It's a cheesesteak.  One word.  And "Philly" is redundant and unnecessary.  The only places which call cheesesteaks "Philly Cheese Steaks" are national sandwich chains or pizzerias in Colorado.  But now I'm beginning to lose focus and ramble, so I'll wrap it up here.

Unwrap one of these beauties yourself soon if you get a chance.
*I am not making fun of roasted beet and goat cheese sandwiches; in fact, Soup Kitchen Cafe's version of same is another one of my favorite sandwiches in the city...

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Roadside Delaware County, Volume I: Charlie's Hamburgers Edition

How about a little Americana for the weekend.  I have many future installments in mind.  For now, let me just start with a spur-of-the-moment (well, spur-of-some-moment-last-night, but close enough) trip out to Folsom, Pennsylvania for a Saturday lunch at my second-favorite (Hackensack, NJ's White Manna being the all-time, forever number one burger on the planet, of course) roadside burger shack, the classic Charlie's Hamburgers.

336 Kedron Avenue, Folsom, PA 19033

A dozen and a half stools along the front counter and the window, with standing room for maybe another 8-10 people.

Packed at 2 PM on a Saturday, the line nevertheless moves quickly and I managed to snag a seat at the counter.  One plain cheeseburger and one Charlie's Special, please.  Thank you!

Plain cheeseburger and a Charlie's Special, $6.04 including tax.  Not pictured: milkshakes and drink options.

Plain cheeseburger.  Meat, cheese, bun.  Not pictured for some reason: Charlie's Special.

At about three ounces, on a grill-toasted, no-frills, plain white squishy bun with almost as much tangy American cheese as meat, this is the classic American burger at its purest, and best.  Plenty of moisture from the meat and the cheese, no condiments or other toppings necessary.  Perfect meat-to-bread ratio.  I don't eat burgers often, but when I do this is all I could ever ask for.

The patty gets a nice crust from its time on the grill, the cheese oozes into its nooks and crannies, and the edges of the bun give off a pleasant, random light crunch every now and then to throw in a nice textural contrast.

The Charlie's Special was good, and though I'd normally stay away from tomatoes on a burger, especially during a Pennsylvania winter,  the slice did not offend, though it, not surprisingly, didn't taste like anything, either.  The fried onions were excellent.  Tiny, tiny, hot dog cart-style dices melted right in with the cheese to add a touch of sweetness.  The ample slices of thin pickle added a cool crunch and played very well together with the whole product.

I'd probably just go for two plain cheeseburgers next time, though I do not regret the Charlie's Special in any way.  I'll surely have to try a Bunny's Special sooner or later, too.

The most American food there is, in (well, just outside of) the most American city there is.  What could be better than that?

 On your way back home, you can always pick up a few things at the drive-through dairy store down the street...

2014 snow in its final days.  NOT a flood or spill of dairy product.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Happy 101st, President Hoffa

A day late, but thanks to my Teamsters Local (641), I'm never a dollar short anymore.

From, I'm just gonna rip the whole post.  I hope nobody minds.

The Life and Legacy of General President Emeritus Hoffa 
“I shook his hand!” “He remembered my name.” “He was always one of us.” “He changed my life.” These comments and hundreds more like them still can be heard at Teamster retiree meetings held at union halls and truck stops all across the country. 
The man they speak of, who was regarded as a friend by some, a miracle worker by others and a brother by all, was James R. Hoffa, General President of the Teamsters Union from 1957 to 1971. The words are spoken with a sense of awe and reverence that has not faded in the long decades since he first took office. Few of us have the opportunity to impact the lives of millions of workers. Hoffa did. 
Today, Teamsters everywhere celebrate the anniversary of Hoffa’s birth on Feb. 14, 1913. 
Born the son of a coal miner in Brazil, Ind., and growing up in working-class Detroit as the economy took a turn for the worse in the country, Hoffa understood hard times and the fear of an uncertain future first hand. 
Early on he decided he could help bring a better life to those he knew in the neighborhood and on the job. At 18, he and four young co-workers took on the large Kroger grocery company, striking for better wages and working conditions. After the success of the strike Hoffa caught the attention of Teamsters Local 299 and joined their staff in 1934. He became an ardent organizer, working long hours and taking every opportunity to bring new members into the union. 
A natural leader, Hoffa’s role in the union quickly expanded to business agent, and by 1941, the 28 year old was head of Local 299. Hoffa’s vision for workers went beyond his local, so under the guiding hand of mentor Isaac Litvak from Local 270, he and another young leader, Bert Brennan from Local 337, began to seek ways to expand and improve labor’s status in Detroit. 
His skills and easy rapport with rank-and-file workers broadened his popularity throughout the Central region, first on the Over the Road Drivers Committee, then later earning him a position as Trustee on the General Executive Board in 1947, and election to the board as a Vice President in 1952. Hoffa was elected General President at the national convention in 1957. 
Always seeking to improve the lives of workers, Hoffa became a catalyst for change through groundbreaking events like the signing of the National Master Freight Agreement in 1964, which brought more the 450,000 workers and 16,000 companies under one contract. 
While seen as a tough and effective negotiator for members, Hoffa brought labor’s voice to the public in other ways as well. He taught seminars at Harvard Business School and appeared on popular news shows such asFace the NationThe Brinkley Show and Meet the Press. He also created a political education arm of the union called DRIVE to help members better understand labor issues and ensure they had a voice on Capitol Hill. 
Hoffa loved interacting with the members and would frequently visit truck stops and freight terminals to hear what the members had to say. He would even stop to shake members’ hands when he saw them on the job. 
Hoffa had an energy and charisma that inspired members and created a bond within the union. They would wait in long lines to shake his hand and bring young children to see him at rallies. He helped improve their lives, giving many the opportunities to buy homes and cars or have health care for the first time -- opportunities they never forgot. He gave them hope and dignity and a chance to view their lives and their jobs with pride. 
He was their man, doing the right thing at the right time for their country. They never forgot him. He was the man who introduced himself as “I’m Jimmy Hoffa and I stand up for the American workers.”

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Here I Am...

I never knew David Foster Wallace (z"l) played drums for UB40.  But there he seems to be, at 0:18.

Remember when pop music was actually good?