Apples: A cultural guide

So many to choose from, so crunchy and sweet and so diverse in their origins, traditions and lifeways. So here’s your thumbnail guide to the ways, means and personalities of the citizens in the apple row of your produce section:

1. Red Delicious: Broad-shouldered, slender-hipped, exclusive, not too bright. The stereotypical jock. Most satisfying during the fall, then soft and avoidable for the rest of the year. Quote: “What are you looking at, pencil-neck?”

2. Golden Delicious: Pretty, sweet, looks great alongside Red Delicious (they’ve been dating for years), but just a trifle cloying and, frankly, dumb as a stump. “Why do you have to be so negative?” First few bites go down okay, but then there’s no there, there. Makes a good pie, tho.

3. Granny Smith
: Nothing like your granny. Witheringly tart, for one thing. Smokes, drinks and doesn’t care what you think about that. Mixes a bad-ass martini and don’t even try to keep up with her. Funny as hell.

3. Gala: Let’s just say that if you miss an episode of “Glee” you know who’s got it on their DVR. “Let’s put on a show!” Lots of comic references to “jazz hands” and other inside theatrical/choral whatevers. Knows everything about Sondheim, and can really, really sing. Extremely loyal friend, and sweet-natured, but sarcastic. That first bite will run zingers down your tastebuds. “Did I just say that?” Oh, no you didn’t!

4. Braeburn: Lives next door. Totally solid, not too tart and not too sweet, reliably crispy. Also has every tool known to man and will gladly let you borrow his shears or that obscure metric wrench thing, just toss it on his porch when you’re done. Sweatshirts and a perpetual day’s worth of stubble. Of course he’ll jump your car, doesn’t care how late it is. Take him to lunch or slice him up and toss him in a pie, he’s totally happy to help. Will bring beer, too.

5. Fuji: Soft-spoken, exceedingly polite, has one of those Buddhist rock gardens with the inscrutable patterns and the gong in the middle. Some kind of computer genius, designs code or something, no one really knows. Not a gobbling apple nor a pie/tart variety, Fuji can be transcendent when sliced thin and presented in an elegant array with hard cheeses, crackers and white or a lighter red wine. Enjoy with your shoes off, sitting cross-legged on a straw mat and hearing the breeze stir the blossoms through the air. 

(note: This appeared originally on my culture blog at (a/k/a the Oregonian’s website). There’s more here.

The word on The Word

Readers, friends, colleagues and/or compadres: I’m extra-pleased to point you in the direction of the December issue of the UK’s fine culture magazine The Word, which only takes a slight dive, quality-wise, to fit in a pretty lengthy story on Bruce Springsteen’s early life. Which was, need I say more, written by yrs truly.

Groovy pictures, lots of other great stories and if that weren’t enough a free CD with new tracks by the Posies, Squeeze and Afrocubism!

Greetings from Asbury Park, and other journeys

Okay, so it’s been a while. But what fun we’ve been having! And tomorrow’s Halloween, which means the usual neighborhood walk becomes a profit-making excursion. Is it wrong for a father to order the kids to trick-or-treat another block, or possibly three, and both sides of the street, goddammit, until they’re actually weeping and begging to go home? Probably, so I stop just short of that. But what part of free candy doesn’t this generation understand?

I’ve been in New York an New Jersey this past week, working on the new Springsteen bio, and it’s been a lot of fun. All the meetings and interviews you can imagine, plus also a cool few hours in the Monmouth County Historical Association library, a few beers at the VFW in Highlands, NJ and a long, fun evening in a basement in Long Branch, playing music (badly, on my part) with Vini Lopez, Tinker West and a few of their very, very patient, and far more musically accomplished than I friends.

Steel Mill fans will remember the Middletown police scrape in the summer of 1970. . . seems that Tinker ran into the retired chief of police at some social gathering a while back and went up for a cheerful hello. Greeted him by name, in fact, which took the ex-cop’s friends by surprise. “Do you know the chief?” they asked. “Of course I know him!” Tinker brayed. “He’s the fuckin’ asshole who started a police riot at my concert!” Chief McCarthy (am I remembering that correctly just now?) is in a wheelchair now, seemingly infirm in a variety of age-related ways. “But of course he got all fuckin’ riled up,” Tinker says, laughing. Nothing ever really ends, now, does it?

Meanwhile, in “Paul McCartney: A Life” news. I’m doing a variety of radio interviews to herald the paperback publication. And the Wall Street Journal takes a look right here, tossing in a bunch of observations, my favorite being: “…a riveting re-creation of a pivotal time in rock-music history.” That’s nice, isn’t it?

More soonish. For even more, even sooner, do check out my Oregonian blog:

Paul McCartney: A Life – Now Out in Paperback!

Oh, that was something to remember, too: See that picture of Paul McCartney on the right side of this page? With the writing down the left side and the blue click-throughs to Amazon and Powell’s? Punch either of those suckers now (or any on-line bookseller of your choice, or actual real bricks-and-mortars stores out there in the 3-d world) and you can buy the same book — all the same words, pictures, italics, punctuation, etc. . . plus extra bonus good reviews on the front and back! — for a fraction of the price of the hardcover! Whee!

Hey, where did I go? Change is good, right? We've got change.

I was blogging really regulalrly there for a while, eh? And what it was! So much fun, in fact, that I went and started a whole new blog.

This is an extension of my day job at The Oregonian (the great newspaper of the Northwest, yo.) and you can find it right here.

The good news is that it’s a lot like this blog – a stream of opinions, musings, rants and snarky asides about the popular and sometimes not-so-popular-but-still-cool culture.

The better news is that I’ll be feeding it near-constantly: multiple entries a day, nearly every day. Not always as lengthy and/or thought-through as the essay-like stuff I’ve been plugging in here — and maybe I’ll use this space for popular (to me, anyway) series e.g. the Retrofit Guide. Would that be cool? Tell me if you think that’d be cool (as ever, you can find me double-quick by zapping an email to: Or maybe all that stuff will migrate to the Oregonlive blog. And maybe/certainly I can find a way to auto-post (or link) the Oregonlive entries into this space, so no matter where you go, there I’ll be. Clone-style. Nightmare style. I dunno.

The other thing is that work on the next book – the Bruce Springsteen bio – is picking up all kinds of steam, and between that and the day job (and its new blog extension) I’ll have less time to do fun stuff like spend a weekend listening to and writing about “Hotel California” and the like. As fun as that is (and it’s LOTS of fun) I just gotta focus the finite energies on the big stuff that both matters the most to me, but also comes with contractual obligations.

So this isn’t even close to a goodbye. If you play your cards right (or wrong) you’ll see more of me than ever. Just come on over to Oregonlive and check out the new blog — once again, that’s:

The fun is only beginning.