March 21 - April 19 Aries
Blazing Tomato Chutney. There. I said it. If I know Aries, and I think I do, the color alone will attract your eye. And you can buy this elixir and others from Beth’s Farm Kitchen, which I stumbled upon recently at a Green Market on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. According to their website, the magic happens in a 1850’s farmhouse in Columbia County in New York State. All of the fruit used in their chutneys and jams is grown locally or regionally. Beth and friends started in 1981 with strawberry jam and have since developed over 90 flavors. Visit them at one of the many green markets around the city, or buy online and choose from jams, marmalades, fruit spreads, chutneys, jellies, and relishes. Indulge both your sweet tooth and your savory tooth.
April 20 - May 20 Taurus
May 13, 1964 is the birthdate of a Taurean that we’ve all come to know and love in the last few years, I’m speaking here of Stephen Tyrone Colbert. Has it really been three years since the launch of The Colbert Report? And I ask you, Nation, is there any better use of your time between 11:30 and midnight every week night? I think not. The redoubtable Mr. C. brings us his twisted holiday special 10pm on Sunday night, November 23 on Comedy Central. A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! is described by S.C. as “the greatest newsman-hosted holiday Christmas special since ‘A Walter Cronkite Tet Offensive’.” With special guests Toby Keith, Willie Nelson, Elvis Costello, John Legend, and Jon Stewart, Colbert will no doubt rock us around the Christmas tree in his snarky, lovable way. And if you miss it or you want to remember it forever digitally, the program is issued on November 25 on DVD with extra features: a book burning Yule log, video advent calendar, alternate endings and more. Thank you Santa Colbert!
May 21 - June 20 Gemini
Now that we’re hurtling full speed ahead into that time of year where Halloween has morphed into Thanksgiving and we’re suddenly staring slack-jawed into the aforementioned Christmas abyss, may I suggest a trip to American Celebration on Parade in Shenandoah, Virginia. The Gemini appetite for nostalgia will go into overdrive here. From their website: Thrilling visitors from around the world, Shenandoah Caverns is the only cavern in Virginia with elevator service. Explorers of every age and ability will discover an underground world of wonder. Yes, you can spelunk yourself into a frenzy here and also wax mondo patriotic with the nation’s premier parade float exhibition featuring spectacular parade floats from the Rose Parade, Presidential Inaugurals, the Miss America Parade, the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and more. In case you ever wondered where those parade floats go when the party’s over. The very existence of this place prompts me to quote Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous couplet: The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings. N’est-ce pas?
June 21 - July 22 Cancer
Our indie bookstore this week is Tome on the Range in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day. Tome on the Range is a general interest book store housed in an old Victorian building in the small town of Las Vegas, 65 miles east of Santa Fe on I-25. The town itself is worth a visit for its many historic railroad-era houses and commercial buildings, over 900 of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Moonchild, I know you’re fascinated by historical trivia, so listen up. Fact: Most of No Country for Old Men was filmed here; and this is the location of the surreal parade in Easy Rider where Fonda and Nicholson are arrested for ‘parading without a permit.’ Right across the street from Tome on the Range is their sister store, 2nd Tome Around, which sells used books and has a café. Coffee, tea, snacks, books, and wireless internet. Does it get any better than that?
July 23 - August 22 Leo
Are you aware that there are three men in their twenties currently walking across England, traveling without any money and relying on strangers that they meet for hospitality? I’m telling you this, Leo, because I know that deep down you’re the adventurous type who could completely envision yourself doing the same. The Guardian’s Will Hodginkson documents their walkabout here. Three years ago this intrepid trio decided to find out if they could leave home sans cash or cellphones and travel the length of Great Britain by foot. To date they’ve logged three trips of this nature. Quoth one of the three, “People respond to the mythic aspect, that dream of England, of being in the woods and living close to the earth.” They literally sing for their supper in pubs and village greens, their set list consisting of traditional English folk songs. “People ask us why we’re doing this, and we don’t really have an answer. Are we trying to save the world, or become famous, or pretend to be Robin Hood? We don’t know. But there’s one thing that we’ve learned about this life that we’d like to share: it’s much easier than you think.”
August 23 - September 22 Virgo
This week’s blog is Mark Blankenship’s The Critical Condition. I’m putting it under Virgo because Virgos tend to be a little hypercritical sometimes and you’d totally dig Mark B’s mindset. Blankenship had an epiphany in 1999 that made him realize he wanted to document the many twists and turns of pop culture as a critic. He went on to get a Master’s Degree at the Yale School of Drama and became a writer for The New York Times, Variety, and the Village Voice. In the blog, nothing is sacred; from reality shows to classic cinema, Mark weighs in on all. On Brothers and Sisters: TV drama keeps disappointing me. Dirty Sexy Money is crappy this year, and the nation agrees that Heroes is flailing like a beetle on its back. And now another great series has gone down in flames. Brothers and Sisters has become subpar. On Journey (as in Steve Perry): Were Journey the stealth geniuses of eighties music? It seems like everybody likes them, or at least nobody hates them, which is saying a lot. There’s just something about Steve Perry’s voice that defies mockery, you know? You can joke about his tight-tight jeans and his mullet, but his voice? Don’t do it, homeslice. That shit is gold. I think I’ve made my point. Visit The Critical Condition early and often. And dig Mark’s new hip-hop video, Silence (of the Lambs).
September 23 - October 22 Libra
The sophisticated, urbane Libran will no doubt thoroughly enjoy a meal at Lorenzo’s Restaurant in Trenton, New Jersey. Get there a little early and have a scotch (neat) at the 200 year old historic bar, New Jersey Elites Favorite per their website. Lorenzo’s is the oldest restaurant in Trenton and the ultimate in fine dining in NJ’s Mercer County. Mangia! Don’t miss the stuffed mushrooms or the garlic bread. The pasta? Si! The steaks? Succulento! Family owned and operated since 1922, Lorenzo’s was established by Peter Lorenzo, great uncle of the current proprietor. Mr. Lorenzo was a Trenton police officer and also the leader of the local Italian American Democratic Committee. Located directly across from the Trenton train station and easily reachable from both Philadelphia and New York City, this is a scene you really must make. Oh, yeah. Prego.
October 23 - November 21 Scorpio
He’s back!! You know who I’m talking about. After such a long drought I can’t even discuss it, Mr. Stressbucket himself, Mr. No-Sleep, Mr. Conspiracy, Mr. Crazy Eyes, is going to be back for a 2 hour “special event” on Sunday night November 23 – 24: Redemption. After much thought I decided that the fictional character of Jack Bauer would be a perfect Scorpio. He’s driven, determined, magnetic, and obsessive. Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer is the undisputed Master of Disaster. Check out this page of pithy show quotes by Our Hero. Read his profile and learn why he’s the Lone Wolf crusading out there for justice. This special is a prequel to Season 7 which will start in January. A little taste of Mad Jack to whet our appetite for the new year. Mmmmm. I’m ready. Bring it on!
November 22 - December 21 Sagittarius
November 22, 1968 was the date of release for the Beatles’ White Album. 40 years ago tomorrow. Making the double album set a Sagittarius. Thank you Artie Wayne for reminding me about this great event. And, O Best Beloved, this was back in the days when double albums meant you got twice as much fantastic music, not an excuse to dump filler tracks on the public. Watch the top 10 videos from the White Album here. Read Kent Kotal’s fascinating song-by-song dissection of The White Album here, Side 1, Side 2, Side 3, and Side 4. Kent is joined by noted Beatles historian Bruce Spizer, author of The Beatles on Apple Records.
December 22 - January 19 Capricorn
The internets has brung us many many splendid things since its inception, am I right Capricorn folks? It never ceases to delight and amaze. Like when I stumbled upon this website for the Essex Mountain Sanatorium. This scary behemoth of a building complex once crouched on a piece of land in Verona, New Jersey. It was established in 1873 as The Newark City Home on property which is today part of Verona High School. In 1917 it became a sanitorium for the vast number of local victims of tuberculosis. In the 1970’s it was also used to care for the overflow of mental patients from the Overbook psychiatric hospital in nearby Cedar Grove. When tuberculosis was eradicated in the late 70’s, the sanitorium closed its doors forever. In 1982 Essex County locked the gates to the property. Of course that wasn’t the end of the story and this website meticulously documents the history of this castle of extreme sadness, with photos and floor plans, hauntings, and memories from patients and their families. In May 2002, after the final demolition of the few buildings which remained, the land was appropriated by the Essex County Parks System. Read all about it and, if you’re so inclined, you can even buy some crazy merch here.
January 20 - February 18 Aquarius
Mary Martin was famous for the role of Peter Pan on Broadway in the 1950’s. The production was later filmed for television. Cyril Ritchard was Captain James Hook, and Sondra Lee was the Indian princess with a Brooklyn accent, Tiger Lily. In case you don’t know the story, Peter Pan (with his free spirit, methinks he was quite possibly an Aquarius) is the boy who refuses to grow up and lives on the island of Never Never Land (address: 2nd star to the right and straight on ‘till morning). One night, Peter ends up in the London nursery of Wendy Darling and her two brothers Michael and John. Long story short, Wendy becomes the mother to all the Lost Boys (children who fell out of their carriages in Kensington Gardens and went to Never Never Land with Peter). They share the island with Tiger Lily’s Indian tribe and are constantly menaced by a gang of pirates who want to capture Wendy to be their mother. Captain Hook is the most layered character, at one point rallying his crew to sing a tarantella and then grousing, “No little children love me. I’m told they play at Peter Pan and the strongest always chooses to be Peter. They force the baby to be Hook.” Big ragged sigh. “The baby!” The music is staggeringly great. Watch the trailer. Buy the DVD. Buy the soundtrack. And read James Barrie’s original book.
February 19 - March 20 Pisces
Our Pisces of the Week is the formidable Joe Franklin, born March 19, 1926 in the Bronx. Franklin, known as the King of Nostalgia, hosted the first television talk show, and continues to this day as a popular radio personality. I recently met Mr. Franklin in person and I hope to be even half as spry at his age. According to Wikipedia, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of the music, musicians and singers, Broadway stage shows, films and entertainment stars of the first half of the 20th Century. He is also an acknowledged authority on silent film and owns the largest private sheet music collection in the world. His career began at the age of 16 as a record picker for the radio program Make Believe Ballroom. His own idols, as he often told television viewers, were Al Jolson, whom he literally “followed around” as a teenager in New York, and Eddie Cantor, who eventually began buying jokes from the young Franklin and whose Carnegie Hall show Franklin later produced. He currently interviews celebrities on the Bloomberg Radio Network and podcasts are available at Bloomberg.com. During his 43-year TV run, he interviewed over 10,000 guests. Guests ranged from novelty performers like Tiny Tim and Morris Katz to legends like Bing Crosby, Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, John Lennon, Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand, and Frank Sinatra.