Venice Thanksgiving


 In honor of Thanksgiving, 2012, I'm offering up this 

chapter from Tales Of The Blue Meanie, which includes and absolutely double-throw-down, up against the wall M-Effers recipe for High Altitude Turkey Stuffing! And I mean High! 

Oh: You'll need this crucial Alice B. ingredient to make the stuffing just perfect. Only slightly modernized

Ms. X's Herbal Butter


1 1/2 lbs of butter

2 cups herbs

1 quart water 

Place water in microwaveable container. Add butter and herbs. Microwave for approximately one hour. Pour butter and water through a strainer and discard herbal residue. Place liquid in refrigerator overnight Skim butter from top of water and keep in air-tight container. Keeps indefinitely.

Oh: And if you'd like to buy a copy of Tales From The Blue Meanie, or just read another sample chapter, CLICK THIS LINK.




A Doggy Thanksgiving


Okay, now for the promised Thanksgiving bash of 1969. And I do not exaggerate when I say bash.

Here’s some of what was happening in the world:

Not only had Armstrong landed on the moon – doing his giant step for mankind routine – but Astronauts Conrad and Bean had followed that up by doing moon walks a week before Thanksgiving. Talk about cool. Rumor had it that one of the astronauts had smoked a joint in his tube, but nobody was saying who.

Civil rights battles were still sizzling, with riots here and there and KKK assholes murdering people and the cops turning a blind eye. Same old, same old, right? Ted Kennedy fucked himself forever when he gave a woman who was not his wife a “ride home” and crashed his car into a lake, leaving her there for the fishes while he did everything in his power to evade the inevitable. It was the “splash and run” of the century.

Lots of other stuff was happening that I won’t go into, like the bombing of Hanoi, the My Lai Massacre and a whole host of other things, more bad than good. Despite that, or maybe because of it, from the point of view of the Pepperland collective, it was a good year to get behind us. And so we threw the bash of all bashes. Inviting everybody, but everybody. And yeah, I mean, even Mr. and Mrs. Mad Bomber.

It was pretty iffy at first – the party, I mean. We were all pretty broke. Moneyed people don’t realize how hard holidays can be on those without so much cash. For regular folks the rent is usually due a few days after Thanksgiving, which was of particular concern to us that year because we were in the middle of a recession. Well, okay, before we fired LBJ’s big Texas butt he was calling it a “minor downturn” and when Nixon took over, he said “the end is in sight,” then did a Bush number (both of them) and promptly drove the economy to its knees.

Even so, everybody did the best they could, pitching in with food, drink and snacks. We had a turkey, thanks to the Funk brothers, the skinflint publishers of the newspaper I worked for. Instead of giving out year-end bonuses, the penny-pinching Funks bought a truckload of frozen turkeys every year from some Mexican farms in Baja and handed them out to their employees. I learned for a fact that the turkeys cost them three cents a pound – including transportation – so it was a helluva deal for the Funks when we all stood about the truck as the guys from Ensenada tossed paper-wrapped carcasses at us.

The good news was that these were Mexican turkeys, fat as could be off of good field scraps, with not one blast of hormones in their turkey corpses. In other words, in the days before range free was the rage, these turkeys were range free delicious. The even better news was that my boss – Carl Fritche, the best newsman and beer drinker in Los Angeles – provided his turkey in return for an invitation. Carl had recently been thrown out of his house by his long-suffering wife, who didn’t want to have anything to do with Carl’s goddamn turkey.

We also had a goose, thanks to Roger who had slipped down to the Venice Canals one night and wrung a bird’s neck. His new girlfriend – a twenty-something runaway from a Utah Mormon family – had not only plucked and cooked the goose, she went back to the canals with Jan the following night and scored enough goose and duck eggs to provide an army with enormous deviled eggs, egg-salad, homemade bread and biscuits, with plenty left over for eggnog, courtesy of generous helpings of brandy and rum from the Mad Bombers.

Nancy – Roger’s new squeeze - also organized the ice cream. She had lots of recipes from her Mormon grandmother, who ran a dairy farm in Utah. All the ice cream was homemade on a big old crank machine. The main ice cream engineer was her little kid, Brendan, who was hyper as hell in a time when Ritalin was only starting to creep its creepy way onto the market. Nancy’s method of dealing with his malady was better. She put the kid to work doing things he liked that took a lot of energy. Ice cream, for example. He could turn that crank like a son of a gun. You just had to have somebody come by once and awhile and encourage him. You jumped up and down like a monkey and shouted, “hoot, hoot, hoot,” while making cranking motions. And he’d reply, “hoot, hoot, hoot,” in absolute bliss and continue cranking. Brendan slept very well on ice cream nights. And, damn that was good ice cream. Ben and Jerry’s take note.

So, for Thanksgiving, we’d have an old-fashioned farmhouse-full of food being roasted, broiled and boiled, creamed and sautéed… thin string beans, pea pods, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, cranberries, clams dug up on the shore, horseradish from Mrs. Wilson’s alley garden… salads and dressings galore and meanwhile the ice cream machine kept going and going, courtesy of Brendan the pre-Ritalin hyper kid.

And damn, I almost forgot to tell you – and this is the most important ingredient of all - for the turkeys I made this dressing; a stuffing to end all stuffing. A stuffing aimed at curing all that was wrong with the world - past, present and far into the future, man.

Cole’s recipe for World Peace: Take five big fat handfuls of marijuana out of your three-kilo Korean stash. Sautee in lots of butter until the marijuana is good and brown and you get high just walking into the kitchen breathing the buttery marijuana smoke. Then you do your basic sage dressing, sans sage. After stuffing the birds I had a large pan left over, which I baked when the turkeys were done.

While we waited for the birds – we were using Marita’s oven for the overflow – we did some serious drinking and dope smoking. Besides beer we had five gallons of sangria, using a recipe I’d gotten from a Spanish restaurant I’d worked at during my days as a chef. Basically I soaked cut-up fruit in several gallons of cheap red wine in a pot that I’d scored from a bankrupt restaurant owner. To finish the sangria off, I added two pints of Christian Brothers brandy – again courtesy of the Mad Bombers – and a dash of club soda in each glass, to let the Good Lord think we were only foolin’, as my old Irish uncle used to say.

The sangria was a huge success - everybody applauded after the first swallow, although Stoner Tom allowed that maybe it could use a little percodan for enlightenment. The crowd laughed and shouted him down. However, I noted some eyebrows raised in interest. Carl Fritche, who only drank beer and never partook of dope, found Tom to be a boon companion. Like Tom, he spent most of his life looped. With Carl it was beer, or later when his doctor said he had a potassium problem – vodka and tomato juice. He once drank so much vodka and tomato juice that he turned orange. During working hours Carl kept himself straight by drinking quantities of very strong instant coffee (Taster’s Choice) and by sucking on a pipe so permeated by nicotine that it trickled down the back of his throat.

Carl and Tom talked about Existentialism that Thanksgiving Day and also how Carl could score a tank of oxygen from Tom’s hospital that he could install in his Volkswagen van and breathe himself sober so the cops wouldn’t bust him when he was beer bar hopping. They became great pals in later days, with Tom supplying Carl with medical oxygen and Carl visiting Tom in the hospital with care packages during Tom’s suicidal period.

*     *     *

Okay, so at this point I’m going to drive my editors nuts and pause the story to tell you about Carl’s beer bar hopping habits. I doubt that in my lifetime I’ll have a chance to tell it in any other form, so I’m telling it now. It’s like this: One day my car broke down and Carl volunteered to give me a ride home – a distance of about three miles.

The trip took us two-and-a-half hours, I kid thee not. It worked like this: instead of immediately shooting from Santa Monica to Venice, Carl said he had to stop and pee. He explained that he had a “busted pucker string from the war” and had to “piss a lot.” Carl was a former WWII fighter pilot, so I didn’t question his statement. Except, he drove in the opposite direction from my house, wending his way to a dive beer bar. When we walked in the door he told the bartender – who immediately recognized him – that he wanted four beers, meaning two each for him and me. He disappeared into the John, then emerged just as the bartender set the beers on the counter. He downed his two beers in quick order and I followed suit, not wanting to “let down the side,” you know.

This continued on for several hours. Carl would drive for a little bit, suddenly declare that his “pucker string” was puckering, and stop at another dive beer bar. Each time he ordered four beers, swallowed his share in two quick motions, then motioned for me to follow him to his car. Damn, man. I drank more beer that night then ever in my life – including college beer busts. Anyway, not long after Stoner Tom got Carl the oxygen tanks I had to do the beer ride again. Carl would emerge from the beer bar, staggering a little. Climb into the car and put the mask over his face. He’d suck pure oxygen, then start the car and go on straight as an arrow.

He told me once that during his fighter pilot days he always flew drunk to start with - to get the nerve up to face the enemy. But then he’d suck on the oxygen and when the flack started to fly from the German anti-aircraft guns he said, “I’d sober up in a hurry.” He said it was good trick to know when you suffered war wounds like a “fucked up pucker string.”

Meanwhile, back to our fabulous Thanksgiving.

*     *     *

While the food was cooking, we turned the stereo way high, playing everything from the Stones to that jerk Rod McKuen, which Alita had brought because he was her current favorite. People tried to tell Alita that McKuen was gay and not writing his treacly poetry and music about women, but round-bottomed French and Italian waiters.

She didn’t care. “Let me shake my round bottom at him and he’ll forget boys forever,” she said.

Nobody quarreled with her. The women because they all had a soft spot for Mr. McKuen; the men because blonde Alita was just so drop-down gorgeous in her little hippie, mini-skirted, sheer-bloused outfit that they knew they’d be thrown out of every guy’s club on Earth. A Real Guy would never disrespect, or disagree, with a woman who looked like Alita.

The Mad Bomber shyly asked Alita if she had ever fired a black powder weapon and when she replied in the negative he blushed and stammered and asked if maybe she’d like him to show her one day.

Apparently Mrs. Mad Bomber thought this was tantamount to adultery. “You get near that bitch,” she stage-whispered, “and I swear to God I’ll shoot your nuts off.”

“Now, hon, I was only being neighborly,” the Mad Bomber said, stroking his wife to try to calm her down.

Alita wisely retreated to the other side of the room where Kerry and the other members of the jug band were arguing movie endings. They’d just seen “Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid,” along with “Midnight Cowboy,” in one of the Venice Fox Theater’s fabulous double bills.

“Everybody dies at the end, these days,” Clara was saying. “I hate that. Butch and Sundance get it in the first movie. Dustin Hoffman dies in ‘Cowboy’. Then Richard and I just saw ‘Easy Rider’, and Peter Fonda is shot by that dirty redneck right at the end. Blowing up that beautiful motorcycle, too. I thought I’d cry all night. He hadn’t even found Jesus, yet, and that is what Captain America was looking so hard for.”

People were puzzled. “You think Peter Fonda was looking for Jesus in ‘Easy Rider’?” Tim asked from his wheelchair.

Curious, I plumped down in a fold-out chair beside him, waiting for Clara’s reply.

She rolled her eyes like we were all very strange, very alien beings. “Who else was he looking for, silly?” she said. “He does this evil cocaine deal at the beginning of the movie and then he has to like, make amends for this awful sin. So he goes off to find salvation. He thinks he finds it in the graveyard in New Orleans, but he’s there taking drugs and he’s with wicked women, so the devil still has him.” She looked at Tim. “It’s the same with Butch and Sundance. And with Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman. They’re all looking for Jesus. But the guys who make movies these days won’t let them find Him. So they not only cheat the audience with a sad ending, but they cheat us out of finding Jesus as well.” She looked at Tim and said, “See what I mean?”

Tim was so bemused by her answer that he almost shook his head yes, but at the last minute he shook it the other way. He asked the bottom line question. “Clara, when I took LSD and fell off the roof of that hotel, do you think I was looking for Jesus?”

For some reason Clara thought this was funny. She giggled. Mind you, Jesus freak though she might be, she was wearing tight jeans, and a semi-sheer, rose-colored cotton tie-around dealie that offered up her soft breasts in a marvelous, quite artful, display. It was a display not lost on any of us males, but especially her true love, Richard, who broke off playing his guitar along with Keith Richards on the stereo to listen to her wonderful, saintly giggle, and watch her pretty tits jiggling innocently beneath the thin cotton vest.

Richard cleared his throat, cutting off Clara’s reply. “Honey,” he said, “maybe we ought to go check on those rolls in the oven.”

Clara raised an eyebrow, “But we don’t…” She broke off when she saw the husbandly lust in his eyes and did another one of those delightful giggles. “Sure, baby. They’re probably about ready. Better hurry before they burn.” And they both headed out for their apartment, Clara blushing furiously as she called, “Back in a sec.”

From the look on Richard’s face we knew they’d be a little longer than Clara’s “sec.”

“I need to find a girl pretty quick,” Kerry said. “The way the two of them go at it, they’re driving me crazy.”

Tim barked that crazy laugh of his. “I can’t even get a hard on anymore,” he said, “and they’re driving me crazy too."

Soon it was time for dinner and we all made pigs of ourselves – doing our best to hold up the American Thanksgiving tradition for the ages. The dope dressing had the effect of not only getting us blissfully stoned, but of making us even hungrier so we just kept eating until we were ready to burst.

In the middle of all this, the pastor of the local Episcopal church dropped by – I’d befriended him while doing a profile for my column – and although we warned him about the turkey dressing he said he was feeling experimental and dug in. Soon he was laughing and making church jokes. I still remember one of them. It went like this:

Everybody was in church one fine Sunday morning when suddenly there was a crash of lightning and Satan appeared. People screamed in terror and, led by the minister, fled the church.

One old man, however, remained calmly seated in his pew.

A surprised Satan stalked over to the old man. “Do you know who I am?” he thundered.

Nonplused, the old man merely nodded. “Yep," he said.

"And you're not afraid?”

“Nope," the old man said.

“You know I could kill you with a word?” the Devil said.

“Sure do,” the old man replied.

“Or, worse, do you know I could cause you profound, horrifying physical and mental agony for all eternity?"

"Don't doubt it," the old man said.

"And you're still not afraid?" asked the exasperated Father Of Evil.

"Not a bit," the old man said.

"Well, why aren't you afraid of me?" the Devil asked.

The old man shrugged and replied: "Been married to your sister nigh onto fifty years."

About then, Country Joe and the boys arrived, bringing along Tom Ghent, a country singer/songwriter friend. They started jamming, with Richard playing Carol’s upright piano honky-tonk style and soon our food lethargy was gone as we all sang and danced to the music, or – like the minister - just laid back on pillows and grinned crazily at the scene.

During a lull, Roger tottered into the kitchen to fetch more Sangria, then returned with a look of vast amusement on his face. “Oh, Al-lan,” he called, in a sing song voice that I knew spelled nothing but trouble. “Didn’t you say you made some extra stuffing?”

My heart jumped. “Oh, shit,” I said, knowing exactly what had happened.

I dashed past Roger into the kitchen, skidded through a buttery pool. The tray I’d cooked the extra dope stuffing in sat empty on the tiles, licked bright and sparkling clean by Tasha, who was sprawled on the floor with a big doggy grin on her face. She was clearly ripped to the tits.

“Oh, shit,” I said again. I wanted to get mad, but that silly grin just got to me – especially with all that dope inside me - and I started laughing. “Shit, shit, shit,” I said.

Everybody else trooped in, reviewed the scene, got a look at Tasha and joined in the laughter. We were all so stoned that it made the whole thing even funnier.

Eventually, I started worrying about the effects of so much marijuana on Tasha’s system. But a new tenant in my building, a PhD candidate in biology at UCLA, assured me that she’d be just fine, but that the stone-over might last quite awhile.

He was an expert on the subject – overseeing a marijuana study for his professor. Basically he shot mice full of pure THC – the active ingredient of cannabis - then removed and homogenized their brains in a big cyclotron, or whatever, so they could study the effects of pot juice on the brain cells, if any. He said the only thing bad that happened to the mice was having their brains removed. Meanwhile, they’d been blissfully getting stoned, eating mouse food and getting laid a lot.

I asked him, “Did it make them want to fuck more?” Roger, who was standing beside me, perked up at my question. He was curious too.

Our biologist friend shrugged. “Who can tell?” he said. “A male mouse screws twenty times a day if he can, with or without cannabis.”

“Jesus H. Christ,” Roger said, with much awe. “I’ll never think about a mouse the same way.”

True to our biologist friend’s word, Tasha was stoned for more than a week. She slept a lot and dreamed a lot, always seeming to be joyously chasing something. She’d yip with glee in her sleep, legs going like mad. Sometimes she’d bark herself awake, then her head would pop up. She’d glaze around the room, then look at us and that silly doggy grin would crease her jaw. Finally, she’d give a big, dramatic sigh and go back to sleep.

At night, Tasha always bedded down upstairs – insisting that she sleep in front of Jason’s bedroom door so she could guard him. But stoned, the stairs gave her difficulty. She’d get her front legs to climb up a few stairs, but then she couldn’t seem to make her hindquarters follow. She’d reach with first one hind leg, then another, then she’d give up – her full length stretched out across the stairs. And she’d sigh that deep, deep doggy sigh.

I’d come up behind her and she’d look back, grinning a crazy grin, then deliver another sigh. I’d give her hindquarters a boost, which would get her front legs going again until they went as far as she could reach and the back legs would refuse to follow until I helped.

Finally, after many boosts, she’d sprawl out in front of Jason’s door, sigh again, and fall back into dreams of chasing things. She couldn’t get down the stairs the same way and I had to carry her – she was over eighty pounds and when stoned was an uneasy burden. After I got her downstairs in the morning, I’d take her outside so she could do her business.

Now, Tasha was quite the lady. When my brother or I took her out for a constitutional we’d have to turn our backs before she’d go. I mean, she’d find the perfect spot for a pee, stake it out, walk around it, then whine and glare at us until we turned around. Only then would she do the deed. And she scratched dirt over the spot like a cat, then walked away, head and tail high, as if nothing untoward had happened.

However, for an entire week Tasha was so ripped that every time she squatted she lost her balance and fell over. The only thing to be done was for me to brace her, holding her upright while she peed. Even then, she would go, but would glare accusingly until I turned my head – looking well away, maybe even whistling to show I wasn’t paying attention. Then she’d pee.

Poor baby.

During this time, she wouldn’t relieve herself when my brother took her out, but would hold it in all day until I got home from work, then she’d pee veritable rivers. I didn’t dare stop for a beer with the boys, but had to rush home to rescue Tasha. Love takes weird twists, you know?

Tasha was okay by the Yuletide, but this time when I made the dope stuffing for the turkey I made certain to put the extra pan on top of the refrigerator – way out of her reach. Even so, she drove us nuts jumping trying to get at it, so I put her outside until dinner was over.

Thanksgiving in Venice.