Saturday, December 26, 2020

Photographs Of Places I've Lived # 16: Ridgemont Dr

The picture above is the first house I ever owned.  I would never have even thought of buying a house if I hadn't been with my girlfriend, now my wife.  She decided we should buy a house.  I made enough money, I had good credit, it seemed like a good idea.  The process of searching for a house was difficult, not the least because we had a terrible realtor.  She seemed to think we hired her to get the best price so she tried to negotiate but she lost one house we really wanted because of her dumb, bad-card-player tactics.  I was actually out of town when this house came up for sale, but my girlfriend loved it, called me, & put a bid on it.  We were initially out-bid but, as would happen later, the potential buyers couldn't secure credit, & we were second in line.  I had to beg our realtor to please tell them we would offer what we offered initially; she seemed to sense weakness & wanted to underbid.  It's because she listened to me that we got the house*.

In a very real sense I thought I'd live in this house for the rest of my life.  I was incredibly involved with KOOP radio at the time, I worked forty plus hours a week at the University of Texas, & of course I owed lots of money on the thing.  It was cheaper than Austin rents & it was bound to be more valuable over time.  Why would I ever want to move?

It turns out that the girlfriend - who became my wife while we were living here - was a PhD student at the University & once she got that degree, she would look for jobs elsewhere.  It was the way of academia.  This was not made clear to me at the time - I might not have gone through the difficulty of house-hunting if I thought I'd only there three & a half years.  Or maybe it was made clear to me, & I just didn't get it.  I don't know.  I don't remember.

But I truly loved this house.  We adopted Bolan & Winston while we lived here, & we lost Buster.  I started this blog while I lived in this house, & had many friends over for parties & what-not.  I quit smoking for the first time while I lived here, & used to stand in that little doorway area (the front door was to the left, where the mailbox is) & smoke through the screen door while watching television.  So many mornings I left, walked down that driveway, & made my way to the bus I took to work.  If I had been with anyone else, I would probably live there still - but then, I also wouldn't have bought the house in the first place, had I been with someone else.  Or alone.

As you might recall, the economy crashed in 2008.  I had refused, when I bought the house, to accept anything but a fixed-term mortgage.  It wasn't that I am any sort of financial wizard, or even smarter than the average homebuyer - I literally had never even thought of buying a home until my girlfriend started to talk about it - it's just that I preferred to stay with my credit union & they would have had to sell my loan to a different institution if I wanted the sort of mortgage that would backfire three years later.  They of course sold my loan anyway but I watched as two of my co-workers struggled to stay financially afloat when the economy went down the drain because they chose different interest rates.  See, I don't even know what it's called.  Suddenly they had to be exorbitant rates, & I made sure I paid the same straight through.  I was lucky I was a little dumb, is all.

& because it was Austin, it was pretty easy to sell the place.  It won't surprise you that it's changed owners a couple of times since then, & the last time it sold, it went for three times what we got for it.  The new owners have zero-scaped the front & they got rid of the bush that guards the kitchen windows.  I'd like to see what they did with the back but I'll probably never return to Austin again.  The picture above was taken by me a couple months before we moved in the summer of 2009.  I'm glad I have that snapshot - Google maps doesn't go back that far.

What a nice house to have been the first one I ever owned.  As it turns out, it wasn't the last.

*Later, she represented a couple who wanted to buy the house when we were selling it.  They made an offer, we countered, & she countered with a lower offer than their original.  We of course passed.  I so wanted to tell her clients that she fucked them on the deal but, you know, you're not allowed to contact them.  Someone else paid what we asked for soon enough.  What a terrible realtor she was.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Happy Christmas From Self Help Radio

Hi!  I hope you're having a happy holiday, no matter how you celebrate it.  We walked the dogs in the rain.  That's it!  No gifts, no carols, no Christmas movies - heck, not even any Christmas songs.  (I couldn't believe that my wife hadn't heard the Stranglers' "Peaches" so I played the song for her as we walked, & now she's singing it as she's changing lightbulbs in the bathroom.)

However I know you might experience Christmas in some way shape or form, so I remind you that you can listen to this year's A Very Self Help Radio Christmas 2020 any time you'd like.  Just click the link.  You know what?  Last year's A Very Self Help Radio Christmas 2019 is available too!  & holy shizzle, look!  The year before's A Very Self Help Radio Christmas 2018 is also there!  I'm not going to check back, but I think there might be more - check on the Self Help Radio Show Index Page if you'd like.  Just remember: you need a username & a password, & those are SHR & selfhelp.  Happy happy!

If you'd like to look at movies & stuff, you can see the things the show's resident cinephile Chuck watched by visiting his YouTube Playlist of Christmas things he watched.  (That's quite a list of Christmas Carols he's assembled there!)  He has a Twitter thread where he talks about the movies he watches & he jots down quick reviews on Letterboxd.  There might be some holiday treats for you but Chuck does have a caveat:

I thought I should add that there is some cringe & real ugliness amongst the videos. The worst of all is in the Holiday Inn trailer. You can read about what I found distasteful in my twitter posts.

As I said above, I hope you're happy & well, & that you know the stations on which I do shows, Freeform Portland & KBOO, broadcast 24/7 & are always worth listening to.  Stay safe & thanks for listening & have a wonderful holiday & weekend!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Self Help Radio 122220: A Very Self Help Radio Christmas 2020

(Original image here.)

Cancel Christmas 2020?  Oh, all right.  But can I have a three-hour radio show where I play Christmas music?  Yeah?  Totally worth the trade-off.

Three hours of Christmas music, four interviews, much yapping from yours truly - is it better than a Zoom Christmas with the family?  You have to make that call, I fear.  I just gathered tons of songs, many of them (I count eighteen) from 2020.  I made some calls, got some interviews.  I did what I do every week but in a holiday vein.  Hm.  Now that I think about it, maybe choose to spend time with the family.

The show is has settled its brains for a long winter's nap at the Self Help Radio website.  As usual, you will need a username (it's SHR) & a password (it's selfhelp) to listen.  So much happens on the show, there's a handy guide below to let you know what to expect.

Happy Christmas!  Happy holidays!

A Very Self Help Radio Christmas 2020
"Merry Christmas To Me" Eli "Paperboy" Reed _Last Christmas_
"Kids" Nancy Sinatra _The Sinatra Family Wish You A Merry Christmas_
"Claus Vs. Claus (feat. Lucie Silvas)" JD McPherson _"Socks"_

introduction/a visit from Ned Dry, Christmas elf

"Merry Christmas, From The Worst Year Of My Life" Sneakthief _A Very Athens Christmas 2_
"Little Drummer Boy" The Bird & The Bee _Put Up The Lights_
"A St. Nick Dangerous Christmas Eve" The Firesign Theatre _All Things Firesign_
"Drinking Alone On Christmas" The Crystal Furs _Drinking Alone On Christmas_
"Christmas Time Is Here" Khruangbin _Christmas Time Is Here_

interview with my youngest friends Alyssa & Jason

"The Banister Bough (feat. Feist)" Chilly Gonzales _A Very Chilly Christmas_
"Sure Miss Those Days At Christmas" Matt Dorrien _My Christmas Plea_
"Mi Burrito Sabanero" Calexico _Seasonal Shift_
"Mi Burrito Sabanero (Reprise)" Calexico _Seasonal Shift_
"Silent Night (Christmas Hymn) (with The Rosette Gospel Singers)" Sister Rosetta Tharpe _Complete Sister Rosetta Tharpe Vol. 3: 1947-1951_
"Christmas Love" The Dears _Christmas Love_

interview with the Rev Dr Howard Gently

"Christmas Song" Phoebe Bridgers _If We Make It Through December_
"Christmas Eve Can Kill You" Mark Lanegan _Dark Mark Does Christmas 2020_
"The Night Before Christmas" Two Ton Baker The Merry Music Maker _Christmas Party_
"Could Be Christmas Eve" The Cleaners From Venus _Could Be Christmas Eve_
"Flannel Pajamas" Corvair _Flannel Pajamas_

interview with Christmas foe Neville Harrison

"Greenwine" Andrew Bird _Hark!_
"Christmas Wrapping" Ultrababyfat _A Rock By The Sea Christmas, Vol. 11_
"Merry Christmas, Doctor" Mike Nichols & Elaine May _Examine Doctors_
"The Twelve Days Of Christmas (Live)" Straight No Chaser _Holiday Spirits_
"Christmas Is" Run-D.M.C. _A Very Special Christmas 2_

another segment of Chuck's Happily Unsophisticated Cinema Korner

"Christmas Gift" Margie Joseph _Funky Christmas_
"Santa's Got A Bag Of Soul" The Poets Of Rhythm _Anthology 1992-2003_
"The Last Time I Saw You (O Christmas)" Porridge Radio _The Last Time I Saw You (O Christmas)_
"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" The Phoenix Foundation _Lost Christmas: A Festive Memphis Industries Selection Box_
"Blue Christmas" Sharon Van Etten _Silent Night b/w Blue Christmas_

a (recorded) performance by Sir Archibald Von Poesy

"Christmas In My Home Town" Charley Pride _Christmas In My Home Town_
"The Cactus Christmas Tree" The McGuire Sisters _Yulesville! (33 Rockin' Rollin' Christmas Blasters For The Cool Season)_
"Let It Snow" Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets _Winter Wonderland/Let It Snow_
"Winterglow" Grant-Lee Phillips _Yuletide_
"Hating You For Christmas" Melkbelly _Simply Having A Wonderful Compilation_

conclusion, goodbye, & happy holiday wishes!

"Christmas All Over This Town" The Plimptons _Christmas All Over This Town_
"Wombling Merry Christmas" The Very Most _Snow Covered_
"Christmas Must Be Tonight (feat. Michael Rault)" Pearl Charles _Christmas Must Be Tonight_
"Switchblade Christmas" A Bit Shifty _A Very Bert Dax Christmas, Volume Seven_

Monday, December 21, 2020

Whither A Very Self Help Radio Christmas 2020?

(I don't know why I love pictures of burning Christmas trees.  This image from here.)

Ever since the beginning of Self Help Radio, way back in the wild frontier days of 2002, when there was no Twitter or Facebook or Covid-19, Christmas has been celebrated on this show around this time of year.  Not because the host is a Christian - I am not, & I'm not sure why I started this in the passive voice & the third person but I'll put a stop to that now.  It's not because I'm a Christian, & I actually don't celebrate the holiday.  I don't buy gifts, the wife & I don't have a tree, we don't send cards or put up lights or anything like that.  I stopped "going home" for Christmas over a decade ago - a thing which made my mother sad & I regret it a little now that she's gone - & I doubt the family will gather much now that she's no longer the center of the celebration.  (Also this year because of the pandemic.)  No, the one thing I do for Christmas each year is this show.

Why is that?  It might be because I've always liked Christmas music.  It might be because it's been a challenge to make a different show each year & never repeat myself.  This year I have twenty-eight - that's 28! - releases from 2020 to play.  I might not get to them all, but wow!  Why are so many people writing Christmas songs?  Probably they hope they'll make some of that lucrative "Rudolph" money.  But I think there's just something about the holiday & music that brings songs out of artists.  Who knows.

Wait, I have three hours to fill tonight?  Holy shit.  I'll need more than 28 songs...

But yes!  You can hear A Very Self Help Radio Christmas 2020 from midnight to 3am tonight/Tuesday morning on 90.7 fm KBOO Portland, online at  I would say "a splendid time is guaranteed for all" but I know some people hate Christmas music.  This is not the show for people who hate Christmas music.  There will be old favorites (in cover versions I've never played before) mixed among the new carols.  I hope you'll listen!

Because seriously it's the only gift you're getting for me.  & no you can't return it!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Preface To A Very Self Help Radio Christmas 2020: Chestnuts

Hey wait a second.  Have I ever had chestnuts?  Are those the same as those weird white slices of things you find in Chinese food?  Let me check.  Yeah, they're water chestnuts!  Are they the same chestnuts that roast over an open fire while Jack Frost nips at the your nose?

Nope!  According to this website:

Though they share a name, & have some similarities, chestnuts & water chestnuts are not related & can't serve as substitutes for each other.

Chestnuts (also known as tree chestnuts) grow on chestnut trees, & are common throughout Europe, Asia, & the United States. The nuts are encased in spiky porcupine-like capsules, containing 2–7 nuts, each wrapped in its own shell. Raw chestnuts don’t taste good, but once roasted or boiled in their shells, the nuts become sweet & edible.

Water chestnuts, on the other hand, aren’t nuts but 'corms.' Indigenous to Southeast Asia, like rice, they thrive in wet, marshy fields, but like potatoes, they grow underground. Their brown skins look similar to the skins on (tree) chestnuts, but once peeled, water chestnuts are vastly different. They have a crisp, apple-like texture, while tree chestnuts are starchier & 'meatier.'

Both are available canned or jarred, but fresh can be harder to find.

Whoa!  Chestnuts that are roasted over an open fire while Jack Frost nips at your nose are "sweet & edible"?  I guess I knew they were edible, but sweet?  Shut the front door!

This website tells us:

This is the time of year that the Old World nut crops up in food & song. Today, all over Northern Europe, you see men roasting chestnuts over crude contraptions resting in shopping carts. Not exactly a Currier & Ives scene. (editorializing!)

Chestnuts have been a staple food in Mediterranean countries for centuries & were popular in the United States until a fungus virtually wiped out all chestnut trees in North America in the early 1900s. Americans now depend on imports, mostly from Italy.

Chestnuts have an earthy, musty taste. Though they can be eaten hot off the coals, they are better mellowed by the herbs in stuffing or in other dishes. Soon after roasting, the nuts can become so hard they could break a tooth if bitten too vigorously. However, they still can be chopped. Some larger grocery stores & most Italian markets carry chestnuts in the shell & unshelled chestnuts in a can, which are notably softer.

Even if you've never tried a chestnut, surely you know the song - made famous by Nat King Cole - that keeps it alive in holiday lore.

Wait a second.  "Earthy, mushy taste"?  "Break a tooth"?  That hardly seems sweet & edible!  Why the different chestnut descriptions?  What's going on here?

According to this website:

The tender meat of the chestnut has a slightly sweet flavor more like a sweet potato than another type of nut.

Roasted chestnuts also are a bit spongey rather than crunchy. They are a wonderful flavor of the season that everyone should try!

So they're sweet like a sweet potato but also spongey.  & still a wonderful flavor of the season?  Get outta here!

Seriously, I gotta try me a chestnut.  I won't have an open fire to roast it over, but I suppose if Jack Frost wants to nip at my nose, that'd be fine between the car & the store.  We might even pass some choirs singing yuletide carols.  But in Portland they'll be in raincoats, not dressed up like eskimos.