Saturday, August 7, 2010

Homeland Insecurity & The Fleshtones European Summer mini-Festival Of Fun


Homeland Insecurity

Delta flight 246 (JFK to Rome Fiumicino) began with the usual tedium -several hundred passengers shuffling into the cramped confines of a jet. Okay, this one is going to be trouble, I thought. I'm as accepting as they come, but this guy was, as the less diversity-conscious would say, a 'towel-head' -there was literally a towel -a terry-cloth hand-towel at that, draped over his head -a la -alright, I've got to say it -Osama bin Ladin. Talking to himself, special assistance was needed from the increasingly exasperated stewardess to corral him into (and keep him in) his seat. From then on he was particularly uncooperative -not fastening his seat-belt, repeatedly ignoring the instructions to turn off electronic devices, etc. The stewardess called several times for male flight attendants to deal with the passenger, who finally seemed to settle in. We were probably long passed Nova Scotia when diner was served -one of my favorite distractions from the boredom of a long flight (in-flight service, see: www.Zaremblog/

It must have been about 4 hours into our 7 and 1/2 hour flight from JFK to Rome when the pilot made an announcement: due to 'navigational issues' we were returning to the nearest airport with Delta facilities -Boston. This he said, was 'less' an hour away and added that these 'navigational' difficulties in no way impaired our aircraft's ability to operate safely. We just, according to the pilot's increasingly convoluted explanations, couldn't enter 'European airspace' without resolving the issue. If we had 'navigational issues' why not land at the nearest airport, which would at that point seem to be in Newfoundland, or more likely Greenland. At least that would be interesting. What must have been a half hour later, the pilot said we'd be landing in Boston -in a little over an hour. We finally landed in Boston over an hour and a half from then (no less than Streng himself timed it), so we must have been over two hours out from Boston at the time of the first announcement. We sat on the runway at Logan. Our biggest fear was that we'd sit there for the rest of the night, then be held in the terminal until a flight later the next day. If we were experiencing navigational problems, they must have been of an usual nature -we could clearly see security officers approaching the jet. I knew it -a state trooper was led on board to question the unruly passenger with the towel over his head. After a brief interview, which I must assume was unsatisfactory, he was led away. We sat. Then his carry-on luggage was located and removed from the plane. We sat. We were told we were being held while all of the trash was removed from all of the jet's washrooms to be examined. The plane was searched. We sat. Eventually, our friend with the hand towel on his head re-appeared, smiling. The suspect turned out to be nothing more dangerous than a spaced-out member of a touring reggae band. Our 'navigational' difficulties thus cleared up, the pilot introduced the band (some mutation of 'The Bad Brains') to begrudging applause and we were allowed to proceed into the previously mentioned 'European airspace'.

Roman (un)Holiday

We got to Rome with our free day gnawed away to a late afternoon/ evening. Our hotel was outside the city's ancient Servian Walls, near the beginning of the Appian Way. We decided to at least walk to the nearest gate into the city. Passing through the walls at the Porte San Giovanni, we were immediately greeted
by the massive bulk of San Giovanni in Laterano, one of the ancient basilicas ordered built by Constantine The Great himself, this one to house the relics of St. John the Baptist. It's now directly under the jurisdiction of The Vatican. We got no more than a tanalizing glimpse of its interior as the guard ever so slowly closed the church's immense bronze doors.

Scala Sacra -encased in protective wood since the 18th century.

We had better luck as we raced across the street to marvel at 'la Scala Sacra' -believed to be the very stairs that Christ ascended to be judged by Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem. Constantine had them dismantled and shipped to Rome at the requests of his Christian wife and his mother-in-law. Now the devout ascend them on their knees. I got to step #2. At the top of the stairs is the barred 'Holy Of Holies', considered the most sacred place in all of Christendom in the Dark Ages. From the Scala Sacra we were drawn on to the Colosseum -which was closed. It's better admired from the outside anyway. In front of the Colosseum, guys dressed as centurions make fools of themselves by calling out to tourists to pose for pictures with them, thereby making a lot more money than I do making a fool of myself. Turn your head slightly and there's Constantine's Arch. Erected in the period of Roman decline, the Emperor pilfered much of its sculpture from earlier monuments. A short road of ancient cobbles leads from here to the entrance of the Forum -the very epicenter of the power that was the Roman Empire. Naturally, it had just closed.

the Colosseum -everybody knows what it looks like...

Mussolini's two bad decisions (okay, two most bad decisions) were entombing a large swath of the forum under the story-thick carpet of concrete of his Via Foro Imperiali (so that mass parades could go from the Colosseum to his favorite balcony for speechifying on the Piazza Venezia). The other, of course, was actually believing that it was necessary for Italy to conquer the world -again. At this point, thanks to Il Duce's foresight we skirted along the forum's edge, stealing glimpses of the Arch Of Titus, the back of the Roman Senate, and the entrance to the Mamartine Prison -the hideously dank dungeon into which Sts. Peter and Paul were cast before execution (and which we were surprised to find 'closed for cleaning' the last time we were in Rome). Nearby, a low shed protects the remains of Julius Caesar's home -where his body was cremated and where Mark Anthony delivered his famous oration in his friend's honor. To this day, admirers leave flowers on the spot.

We scurried (that's too energetic a word, the onset of evening had done little to cool the heat) up the side of the Capitoline Hill, where once more a guard leisurely closed the bronze doors to the courtyard of the Museo di Campidoglio, just in time to deny us a peek at the fragments from the colossal statue of himself that Constantine had erected in front of the Colosseum. Like-wise the 'secret' doorway that leads to the back of that breezy outdoor cafe at the top of the stupendous monument to King Victor Emmanuel I (bet you didn't know that was there!) was chained as well.


On to the Pantheon, which had just closed, then Piazza Novona (well you can't close that) and the Campo di Fiore as well. It was time for dinner. One of the fascinating things about Rome is that, more than built on top of, it has through the centuries been built into the vestiges of the ancient city. Like the Piazza Novona, who's buildings incorperate the ruins of a Roman racetrack, the Restorante Grotte Del Teatro Di Pompeo, via F. Palasciano, 96 (on the tiny Piazza de Teatro di Pompeo) is constructed into the remains of the ancient Theatre Of Pompey. The Roman Senate was temporally meeting here on March 15, 44 BC, when Julius Caesar was set upon by his assassins as he left the theatre. It's extraordinary to dine steps away from, if not the very spot, where Caesar was stabbed to death by his enemies (and friends) from the Senate over two millennia ago. Also steps away from the mediocre eateries lining the tourist-packed Campo Fiore, here you'll usually find yourself dining (for the most part) in the company of Romans. Eat like they do, and stick to straight-forward Roman specialties like 'Bucatini alla Amatriciana' (spicy tomato ragu with pancetta), grilled fish and the inexpensive (7€) 'Castelli Romani' house white wine, and you'll be more than pleased with your bill as well as your meal.

Bill 'loading into' Rome's Circolo Degli Artisti. We travel light (note the ancient Roman aqueduct at the rear of the venue).

The next day we headed over to Circolo Degli Artisti (via Casilina Vecchia 42; Also located outside Rome's walls, the Circolo is in the neighborhood of rock journalist Roberto Calabro. Of course we ran into him as he was taking a stroll. He handed us a card announcing his recently published book 'Eighties Colors', which documents the Italian neo-psychedelic scene of the 1980's. We're in it. Sponsored by the re-branded Italian Communist Party, that night's show was sweaty, packed and a successful start to our Fleshtones Summer Mini-Festival of Fun.

a transient visitor: AereoPark 'la Donzelletta'

Retorno a Le Marche


I've got a lot of nice things to say about this hill town overlooking the Adriatic Sea, but since we didn't go into Reconati this time I won't say it here. The festival was a modest country affair at the quirky AereoPark la Donzelletta, a grassy flying club within sight of the massive complex that houses the shrine to Our Lady Of Loretto.
There were odd old airplanes and an aviatrix who serves as a 'mother' to clutches of goslings. Waddling after her where ever she goes, she eventually teaches them to fly after her 'ultra-light' aircraft. That night's show was modest as well -in attendance. Too bad, the setting was memorable, the night lots of fun and the adjacent 'Osteria la Donzelletta' -where we dined on the excellent dishes of Le Marche like 'tagliatelle al ragu' Marchigiano, 'pappardelle al Cinghiale' and 'chitarrine Carciofi e noci' -was great.

One Of My Least Favorite Ways To Feel

45 minutes in a stifling hotel room served as a prelude to an over-night drive back to Rome's Ciampoine Airport to catch our early morning flight to Charleroi, Belgium. Pinned upright in the van, my head repeatedly jerked forward as I struggled to keep awake for fear the driver would nod out on the high-speed 'Autostrada'. Understandably drowsy, he repeatedly slowed the van to a crawl as passing Italian motorists blared their horns in displeasure. It was well past dawn when we arrived at the airport where we joined the first of many disorderly queues for our super no-frills flight on RyanAir -the queue-lovers airline. Eventually were funneled into yet another queue amid the drilling, jack-hammering and high-speed cutting of steel in the construction zone that was our boarding pen. Well, I'll quit complaining because flying RyanAir is a bargain.

From Charleroi Airport it's a short drive (this is Belgium) to Leige, 'capital' of Wallonie, the country's French-speaking half. Funneled into a narrow, strategic valley of the Meuse, this pleasant city has gotten in the way of the Germans more than once. More happily, Liege's name has become attached to various examples of pleasurable eating: cafe leigeois, coupe leigeois and so on. I was a bit disappointed by the treacle-like 'vrai sirop de Leige', which turned out to be truly nothing more than boiled-down fruit juice.

'Le vrai sirop de Liege' not withstanding, we were in town to play the yearly 'Festival Les Ardentes' ( Among the dozens of acts performing that day would be Nada Surf (I had been assistant engineer on one of their early recording sessions at Northside's Coyote Studio -before it was obliterated in the hipster tsunami that's overwhelmed that neighborhood) and Heavy Trash (whose Mat Verti-ray operates the studio where we now record with Ivan Julian -small world), a veritable "Brooklyn reunion" as Streng remarked. Various stages, dressing rooms and lounges were partitioned off in a stifling hot (I'm going to over-use that adjective a lot by necessity) hanger that was large enough to accommodate a squadron of Zeppelins. We all received meal tickets for use in the festival cafeteria after another sweaty set. I had my eyes on a well-earned grilled entrecote, served with either 'sauce bearnaise' or 'au poivre vert'. The canteen only had a scrap of steak left, so the cook obligingly compensated me with a massive 'boullette de Liege' (the Swedes should see such a meatball!), accompanied by what they insisted on calling 'french' fries. We were dining in the garden when the sky above darkened and a wicked wind laden with hot, dry dust kicked up. The threatening thunderstorm never hit the festival site, but must have blown up a transformer somewhere, knocking out all the power in the massive complex during Nada Surf's set. They gamely ended their show with chants and percussion -a gambit that The Fleshtones naturally approved of.

Equipped with its own generators, the outage did not affect the main outdoor stage, where headliner Charlotte Gainsbourg would close the night. Lazy as I am about such things, I didn't want to miss the opportunity to see such a famous star (and daughter of important artists Jane Berkin and Serge Gainsbourg). Looking very Patti Smith-like, Charlotte delivered a very breezy, un-Patti-like set. She was not above leaning on her old man's repertoire for what would be her closing (and best) number 'Couleur Café'. There was no encore.
Sunday is market day in Liege and the next morning shoppers crowded the stalls that lined the quays along the Meuse for miles. We had no time to browse -our driver was due back in Turnout by 11AM. Our old friends The A-Bones would be waiting at the hotel there for a lift to the Sjock Festival.

The A-Bones On Tour!: Miriam Linna, Billy Miller and Bruce Bennett (Marcus the Carcass -partial view).

Sjock! Sjock! Sjock!

Belgians are officially bilingual: French and English, or Flemish and English. The country's ethnic mix has increasingly curdled along linguistic lines. Everywhere, homes displayed yellow banners bearing the rampant black lion of Flanders as we drove to the Sjock Festival ( Sjock is one of Europe's longest running R&R festivals. There's music, camping and lot's of Belgian beer. Everyone has a great time. We got to hang out with Belgian agent Peter Verstraelen and other old friends like The A-Bones, who we invited to join us on stage for an extremely improvised rendition of The Strangelove's 'Cara-Lin'. In between performances band members frequented the cabin-like clubhouse of The Gild of St. Ambrosius (founded 1711) where we could chow down and redeem gaming 'chips' for cold rations of 'Primus' beer.

photo: Flemish Gild; St. Ambrosius Gildenkamer -Sjock Festival's field HQ, 2010.

Driving back to our hotel in Turnout that night, my appetite was piqued by several late-night 'doner kebap' joints not more than a block and a half walk from where we were staying. Strolling briskly back to the most promising looking shop from the hotel, I ordered a sandwich, which the counterman slathered with white sauce. I have a profound disgust of mayonnaise -and this is mayo-happy Belgium, but realized it was only yoghourt sauce -spread from a huge plastic jar which probably had been sitting, unrefrigerated, on the counter all day. It was now about 2AM. Filled by my kebap and a feeling of well-being, I walked back to the hotel. It wasn't there. I wandered the twisting streets of the city's old quarter, which now seemed vastly more extensive than I had originally assumed. I found a bus stop, where I couldn't quite make myself understood to a driver. I had disregarded my own rule about always carrying a card from our hotel. It seemed every hotel in Flanders was named something like 'Corsendonk'. Boy, no more quips about learning Flemish now. Next to the stop there was a park where I discovered that Turnout had a rather impressive brick castle in the middle of a wide pool-like moat, next to which was a bench. I sat down to ponder the castle -and my next move. It began to rain. As I considered my options I noticed an open pub. It's floors were strewn with several inches of sand in celebration of some saint's day, or perhaps it was a 'beach' theme weekend. The staff commented on the difficulty of removing all that sand every year, then happily pointed me to my hotel. It was right around the corner. I got back to my stifling room in time to lay atop my bed for a few hours. Then along with performer 'Big Sandy', we all piled into an even hotter, airless mini-van for what we hoped would be a 90 minute drive to Brussels Airport. Despite the morning rush-hour traffic and my oncoming gastrointestinal attack we made it to the airport. There, due to over-booking, the kindness of the Delta check-in agent (and Streng's elite 'Silver' Skymiles status) we Fleshtones were booted up to the unfamiliar comforts of business class for our flight home.(see in-flight service: DL 141:
-Peter Zaremba

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hollywood Comes To Humboldt Street & TEXAS!

Hollywood Comes To Humboldt Street
(a slight digression into everyday life)
(07/26 -29/10)
It's something I've been dreading: the leaflets were finally going up on block. We were informed that film crews for 'Blue Bloods', a new cop drama starring Tom Sellick, would be coming to Humboldt Street. We residents were to remove our cars upon risk of (well, no risk -certain) towing, starting at 10PM Wednesday. The crews would have use of our block until 11PM Thursday. Now I've always liked the idea of Greenpoint's low-key film renaissance. After all, the American movie industry was practically born in Brooklyn and Long Island before it followed the sun to Southern California. In the '20's', Vitagraph Studios pioneered the sound era right here in Brooklyn (check Jolson's 'A Plantation Act' -1926 -it's on 'Youtube along with everything else). Even The Marx Brothers first feature (The Cocoanuts -1929) was shot a stone's throw away on the Kaufman Sound Stages in Long Island City. Until recently however, the industry here was so low-profile that most people couldn't imagine it was being carried on right under their noses. Sergei's best friend went slack-jawed when I pointed out "The Naked Brothers Band' was being filmed in the neighborhood. For him what comes out of the TV or on a movie screen was the result of some unimaginable, far-off, almost mystical process.
"Oh, are they from Hollywood?" he quizzically asked.
"No, they're from around the block".

The once-in-a-lifetime thrill when one Hollywood production or another brought it's glamor (and stars!) into our everyday worlds -'oh I met Kirk Douglas -he was really nice!' was one thing -it's another when the 'dream factory' decides you're just a squatter on their back lot. We learned all about this when we lived in the East Village. There seemed to be a production underway on our block every other week (Don't step over that cable in your doorway! Cross the street! Don't come out!). Now it was happening here, and once the production companies decide your neighborhood is their latest push-over, they'll be here one after the other. Already, before 'Blue Bloods' would wrap up on Thursday night, 'The Good Wife' would kick in, banning parking on four blocks adjacent to us.

By Tuesday afternoon the guy sent by the production crew to start holding parking -a day before their permit - wouldn't move his traffic cone back two feet so I could fit into a spot and let my kid out of the car. Nothing brings out the crank in me like being bossed around by some parking thug from a film crew. And this was only Tuesday afternoon. I finally called the location coordinator listed on the warning leaflet. There seem to be two types of people who get the responsibility of having to respond to the irate residents of the neighborhoods about to be invaded by film crews: the reasonable sounding, 'let them get it off their chests' type -like the nice guy from 'The Good Wife' who listened to me vent for longer than he really had to; and the 'how dare you peasants say anything about us using your home as a prop/parking lot for our important clients?' sort -like the terse and impatient young woman who answered the phone for 'Blue Bloods'. I asked if they intended to actually shoot on our block, or were they merely holding parking for a few days for the production crews. "No shooting" she replied curtly, "we're just using the block to park production vehicles". The next day they were moving lights, booms, etc into 716 Humboldt Street -a few doors up from me -so how would you categorize her response to my question? By Wednesday morning there were traffic cones lining both sides of the block.

Thursday morning I had to drive Sergei to the last day of his Bard summer enrichment program. Returning home I fruitlessly searched for a legal spot in the neighborhood for almost an hour. It's a game of automotive musical chairs that I despise. I had work to do before returning to Sergei's 'commencement', the normal 'alternate side of the street' parking restrictions had gone into effect across Greenpoint and I would be towed. To his credit, after several calls, the location manager allowed me to park in the spacious production parking lot (where most of their vehicles should have been in the first place) several blocks away. I guess I'm an 'ingrate'. I walked home and glowered. I glowered while some actor sat idling his car's engine in front of my house. I glowered while some assistant harassed two old ladies who wanted to retrieve some things from their home.

Soon more talent showed up. Sure enough, they were decked out in the ridiculous regalia that costume designers imagine the murderous members of youth gangs to wear. Of course, once again low-crime Greenpoint was serving as a stand-in for some inner-city hotbed of violence. Now, why don't the location scouts really go for authenticity and actually shoot in the so-called 'Ghetto'? The working people of those neighborhoods (and the really authentic examples of the bad dudes who 'Blue Bloods' was trying to portray) wouldn't stand for it. I don't blame them. At least the carefully contrived racial diversity of the 'gang' was heartening. If America's street gangs alone were really so well integrated, we would have come a long way to healing our country's long-festering racial divisions.

Ultimately, the block put up with the inconvenience. To be honest, a lot of neighborhood people find the prospect of catching a glimpse of the back of Tom Sellick's stand-in's head exciting. So they had no problem with being walked over for three days by people who despise them. No wonder the Polish are mercilessly denigrated with impunity (along with Catholics) by the entertainment world. It's certainly a large reason neighborhoods (besides the low cost) such as this become booked up as round the clock film locations par excellence. Passive, generally law-abiding residents, totally taken for granted by their political representatives. And oddly (well not so odd, really) enough, why these neighborhoods are so attractive to hipsterization. (think about it: The East Village, Williamsburg's Northside, now Greenpoint... I leave the rest to the sociologists -unless I'm given a grant, of course). I never bothered to see if Tom Sellick (or his stand-in) showed up. Just lame actors uncomfortably draped in rented NYPD uniforms and beefy representatives from the Teamsters Union idling in their Escalades 'supervising' the production. Despairing of a future of living in a ready-made set for TV land, I called my friend Mitch who lives up the block. "What if they decide to use that house as a main character's home or something?" I asked.
"Don't worry" Mitch sagely replied "Tom Sellick hasn't had a successful show since 'Magnum P.I.'.

(07/14 -18/10)

The sign of Buc-ee. Buc-ee emblazoned boxer shorts are available along with over twenty varieties of jerky at the Texas mega-service station.

Okay enough grousing, now for something more 'fun'. Once more, I've got to thank all of our friends in The Lone Star State, especially The Ugly Beats (www.theuglybeats) and our American agent Roggie Baer ( who made our 4-show trip to Texas so much fun -and possible! I always say a trip to Texas is like visiting another country, which of course at one point it was. We arrived in Austin just in time to head over to one of America's great record stores Waterloo ( for one of the band's best 'in-store' performances ever. I recalled filming there over a quarter of a century ago when 'The Cutting Edge' came to town for it's infamous Austin special. Although I had already resolved to eat nothing but Tex-Mex and barbecue the entire time I was in Texas, it was over to the east side for spirited Bastile Day celebrations at Justine's. France it is not, but Justine's did have ample outdoor seating in the warm Texas night, impromptu fireworks and a performance by friend and former Stray Cat Danny Harvey. The next day we hit the road with the Ugly Beats for Dallas and our shows at the 'Double Wide'.

Dallas (theme music please...)
Whenever I drive into Dallas from the south the theme music from the TV show begins to thunder in my head. Try it. We headed for the Belmont Hotel (from $ a beautifully renovated old-style 'motor court' on a bluff overlooking the downtown skyline. There's a cool cocktail lounge with terrace and a trendy barbecue restaurant. With a few hours to spare and the thermometer still pinned in the '100's', I headed for the pool. I was spending some time trying to get a shot of the hipster with the skyline in the background when a woman sidled up to me in the water. She wanted to know if I was covertly trying to take pictures of their children frolicking in the pool. I hadn't given that any thought, but I had noticed that their toddler wasn't equipped with a 'swimmy' diaper. Sure enough, the next morning the pool was closed 'for maintenance'.

Ken Fox, Dallas

Since Dallas is so close to Waco, this is 'Dr. Pepper' country. Texas bartenders can even dispense the stuff from their 'soda guns', so I decided on an evening-long experiment of Dr. Pepper and rum. I was hoping it would be something like 'Moxie' and rum. Interesting, but I'd say the throne of the 'cuba libré' is secure.

service -Texas size. Buc-ee's, I-45 in Madisonville, TX on the road to Houston.

Quo vadis? former Fly-Rite Boy, now ace drummer of The Ugly Beats Bobby Trimble, ponders Buc-ee's overwhelming selection of jerky. 'Beaver Nuggets' are also available. Not a meat product, 'beaver nuggets' are actually sugar-glazed puffed corn. We all agreed they'd be better in a bowl of milk for breakfast.

"no... no... no..." Alice Berry, DRT -formerly of Hillbilly Frankenstein, with 'Tippi Hedren' Barbie (note Tippi's suit).

We were graciously invited to the stylishly decorated bungalow of long-time friend Alice Berry in 'The Heights' (elevation 25 feet above steamy downtown Houston). The city was founded near the swampy place where Sam Houston turned on and shattered Santa Ana's army in the Texas War Of Independence. Somehow I missed the colossal statue of Sam that everyone said we passed on the way into town. Perhaps the boys were, in the words of Huntz Hall, "suffering from haloukinayshuns' caused by a cigarette that ain't quite legal" -if I didn't know better. The night's proceedings at Houston's Continental Club, a great complex that includes several bars, outdoor lounges and a late-night record shop, might have been the best of the mini-tour. That is, if not for Austin.

The Ugly Beats make a 'Bee Line' at The Continental, Houston -buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Please excuse the quip about marijuana, which was in poor taste. In much better taste was the local branch of Luling City Market ( where we stopped before leaving town for a lunch of Texas-style barbecue -juicy beef brisket, pork ribs and smoked sausage links. Sold by the weight sans plats, Joe Emery commented that "if your barbecue's not served on paper, you're in the wrong place!" I always figured that if the pit didn't have at least one citation from the Department of Health, then you knew you were in the wrong place. Then on to Austin, where we wrapped up our Texas swing at Austin's own 'Continental Club' -exactly where The Fleshtones played on our first transcontinental tour for 'Up Front' in 1981. You'll find footage of the sweltering scene on FB.

-Peter Zaremba

next (finally): Homeland Insecurity, Roman (un)Holiday and Sjock! Sjock! Sjock!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Return of The Busybuddy

Sagamore Hill, Fourth Of July, 2010: youth turns its back on history...

My apologies for the long absence. It's just that this Busybuddy has been -well, very busy: amidst the flurry of activity was playing (briefly!) the 30th anniversary celebrations for DC's 9:30 Club (May 31) a venue that played such a mighty part in the story of The Fleshtones -after short but enjoyable nights in Arlington, VA where we're always happy to perform at The IOTA as well as in Baltimore where we stalked Fells Point (boy has it changed!) for crab cakes, appeared at Otto's and stayed at the very recommendable Admiral Fell Inn (888 South Broadway, Baltimore, MD; just steps from where Edgar Allen Poe was last seen alive and where we woke up to find the British warship HMS Sutherland docked across the street; a great weekend to our mid-west including a visit (June 11) to the deliriously stylish Detroit home of socialite-rocker Muffy Kroha (a report on which awaits photographic documentation from the even busier Ken Fox) followed by a performance at The Magic Stick (which was not the site of Harry Houdini's last performance -that was in Detroit, but at The Garrick Theatre) attended by our favorite Detroit rock & rollers, as well as Chicago (June 12) where its' always nice to chat with Fleshtones biographer Joe Bonomo (read 'Sweat -the story of America's garage band' -I did -twice) and Beachland Ballroom (lodged in a great old Croatian National Home) in the Cleveland suburb of Euclid Beach, OH; a near-disastrous (thanks to Delta Airlines) sally into Florida (June 17 -19) where a no-show by the rest of the band due to airline malfunction was only salvaged by our friends in The Empyres (www.myspace.the empyres) and the editorial staff of Destination Weddings & Honeymoons Magazine (we've got to get back to FL, I know it will work out someday). Ken arranged for us to headline the wildly successful River Fest (June 26) in his current hometown of Beacon, NY with the majestic Hudson as a backdrop. After the performance Streng and I hitched a (spectacular) ride along the historic river with old friends from 'The Pyramid Club' days Greg (-nice photo of the Temple of Kulkulcan for the rear cover of The Fleshtones 'Beautiful Light' LP) Sarah and Sharon to the very Swedish Mid-summer party at my in-laws home in Nyack. Topping it all off was a whirlwind Fourth Of July with the family on Long Island.

view from 'The Admiral Fell'

An All-American Fourth Of July

The Zarembas figured attempting to navigate across Manhattan to watch the Macy's Fourth Of July Fireworks (since they've been moved way over to the Hudson River instead of the adjacent -to us! -East River) would just be so miserable that we searched for another, easily-accessible, small-town display. Riverhead, Long Island, was having fireworks and is only about an hour and forty-five minutes away -if you don't get nailed by 'Hamptons' traffic. That morning, however, we were unsure of our destination as we pulled away from our Greenpoint, Brooklyn home. I had already purchased a NYS 'Empire Passport', which allows access to state parks from Montauk to Niagara Falls ($65) so we set our course for Jones Beach (vehicle use fee without pass: $10 per car)) so Sergei could try out his new 'boogie board'. The crowds weren't bad at all (yet), but waves were also lacking, the sun was absolutely blinding and Sergei wouldn't go in the water despite the heat. Decisive action was needed, so we headed up to the 'north shore' where an 'Old Fashioned Fourth Of July Celebration' was underway at Sagamore Hill, the former country home of President Teddy Roosevelt ( Instead of the hot, surly mobs we anticipated, we were pleased to discover (a parking space!) and crowds of good-natured holiday-makers out (like us) to enjoy the day at TR's beautiful estate. There was a crack brass band on the verandah, re-enactors in Rough Rider uniforms provided a mounted color-guard and 'ringer' James Foote posed as the great man himself. The flag was raised, the anthem sung and the band struck up appropriately stirring aires like 'The Big Stick March'. We toured the house, which I confess I had never done before, despite having grown up 'New York/Long Island'. There was lots of Teddy's stuffed big game, but the most interesting items were the saber and Stetson he wore at the charge up San Juan Hill cradled by the immense antlers of an elk, and a native American depiction of the Battle Of Little Big Horn on an animal hide. I did not notice his Nobel Peace Prize medal (for personally arranging the treaty between Japan and Russia ending their 1905 war). We didn't stay to hear any of TR's famous addresses, but as we departed I was very satisfied to hear that the president liked to wind-up his Independence Day celebrations at Sagamore Hill by setting off fireworks. One of the miracles of this patriotic day is that I, like Teddy, managed to keep all my fingers. I'll never forget my father demonstrating to this awed child the proper way to throw a lit cherry bomb (he still has all his fingers too, thank god).

young bather, Wildwood State Park

We still hadn't satisfied our yearning for a dip in the sea, so we sped out on the infamous LIE, past flashing signs warning of full parking lots at state parks like Heckshire, Robert Moses and Sunken Meadows, to island's far reaches in Riverhead Township. The signs at Wildwood State Park (vehicle use fee without pass: $4 per car) also said 'full', but we were waved in (did he see the pass or were we not noticed?) and simply waited about 90 seconds for someone to pull out of their parking spot. Were among perhaps a half dozen very conspicuous English-speaking families out of the tens of thousands enjoying the pleasantly cool waters of the Sound. Marilla and Sergei played paddle-ball on the pebbly beach, anglers cast for plentiful 'scup' while the otherwise low-laying life-guards made desultory attempts to prevent people from climbing (and destroying) the magnificent, tall sand bluffs backing the beach.
what a peach... Davis Farm, Wading River, LI

Leaving the park we stopped for freshly picked peaches at Davis Farm Stand (1039 Soundview Ave Rt.25A at Hulse Landing Rd, Wading River, LI: 631-886-1095; I can't tell you which peaches were more delicious -yellow, white or red, but free samples from the baskets of over-ripe 'seconds' sent luscious juice flowing down our arms. White and yellow cherries were delicious too, reminders of the bounty of Long Island's lost farmlands. We continued east along 25A through an (almost) unbroken agricultural landscape glowing in the golden sunlight of the late afternoon. I recalled, when as a little boy, the same lovely fields once stretched all the way into eastern Queens. I didn't want to spoil it for Sergei by telling him to take a good look. Soon all of this would be gone too.
We were entering Southold. Occupying the 'north fork' of 'fish-shaped Pomonok', this ancient township was a part of Connecticut back in the days before the English seized the rest of what is now New York from the Dutch. In recent times it's become wine country, which just might save agriculture on the North Folk -hopefully it's more profitable to grow grapes than sub-divisions. It's certainly more so than traditional crops like potatoes or cauliflower. I was even surprised to see a few small fields of wheat, waving in the sea-breeze as it's done here since the 1630's -and corn, as planted by the native Americans here for millennia before that. Our destination was my sister's village of Mattituck (she's off visiting Graceland) for ice cream. The Magic Fountain is the sort of old-style drive-in that every North American town once had at least one of, serving home-made ice creams, sodas and sundaes (9825 Main Rd, Mattituck, LI: 631-298-4908; ). Yes, at $3.50 a scoop, I'd say the prices approach 'boutique-ish', but the ambience and product are reassuringly authentic. There's a dizzying variety of flavors, with seasonal favorites like peach and avocado-coconut in the summer and pumpkin in the fall (yes, yes, yes, there's triple-chocolate/fudgy/mudpie/cocao/brownie/chocolate/whatever for those with one-flavor vocabularies). Having had dessert, we did diner in reverse -heading for 'Legends' (835 first Street, New Suffolk, LI: 631-734-5123; mostly because we knew it was there, figured we'd get a table and the four minute drive to the water-girt hamlet of New Suffolk is so pretty. Although it lacks the prerequisite dock-side dining (try Mattituck's Old Mill Inn for that: 631-298-8080; the food is reliably good, in fact I'd say the New Suffolk (New York) style clam chowder (yeah yeah, it's soup -$6 -$9) and calamari con pepperonccini ($12) are great. The lamb shank and Long Island duckling (of course) looked good too.
After diner, we strolled across the road to the waterfront where a lonely historical sign marks the spot where inventor John Holland developed and tested the first practical submarines for the U.S. Navy at the turn of the previous century. A spectacular vermillion and purple sunset streaked the unbelievably broad sky, reminding us it was time to head west to catch the fireworks back in Riverhead. We got there just in time to pull over and join a clutch of people on the Rt. 105 Bridge (Cross River Rd) watching the fireworks mirrored on the waters of the Peconic River. Then an extraordinary drive as the surprisingly large-scale pyrotechnics of private citizens merged with legal displays of the towns that we passed. For 65 miles to both sides of the expressway and beckoning in the distance ahead the
'bombs bursting' punctuated the inky night sky, leading us back to Greenpoint and home.
-Peter Zaremba

Coming: Homeland Insecurity, Roman (non)Holiday, Gainsbourg Leigeois, Sjock! Sjock! Sjock! and 'TEXAS'.

The Fleshtones head north to Canada - Montreal 08/19, Toronto 08/20, Hamilton 08/21, see you all there!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Nevis, Makato & remembering Henry Gaffney

Without 4 Seasons

A quick trip to a small island 05/13-16/10.
I figured I'd start this off the same way I've seen lots of stories on Nevis begin -with a photo of the island's instantly-recognizable profile as seen from sea. It's all the more appropriate now that American Eagle flights from San Juan have been suspended and most travelers first glimpse of Nevis is once more exactly that -as seen from the ferry from neighboring St. Kitt's. It's a view that prompted Columbus himself, who noting its long-extinct volcano wearing its crown of clouds, named the island in honor of 'Nuestra Señora de las Nieves' -Our Lady Of The Snows.
The original inhabitants called the island 'Oualie' -Carib for 'island of beautiful waters' but since they didn't make maps it was Nieves, later anglicized to Nevis, that stuck. The disastrous activity of equally -assumed dormant volcano on next-door Montserrat gives one pause for thought -briefly. However, it was this fantastically rich volcano soil and fair climate that made Nevis rich (at least for its planters and merchants) and a center of gracious society during the days of slavery. Wealthy overseas visitors came to take the cure at the island's Bath Hotel (1778), the Caribbean's first tourist resort. It now houses government offices, although you can still par-boil yourself in the near scalding waters in a outdoor concrete trough on the grounds (I tried it once, as author Bob Morris then commented "relentlessly unrefreshing"). Many of the old plantation 'greathouses' now serve as the nucleus for casually elegant inns, a distinctive feature of lodgings on Nevis.

How we came to be going to Nevis is a bit of a story in itself. Although I normally grouse about bad luck, it's usually of the perpetual missing-my-subway-by-seconds variety. I certainly don't gamble (this was reconfirmed by a Macau sooth-sayer -out of the thousands of the day's supplicants I was probably the only one that he didn't advise to rush out and break the bank in that gaming-mad territory's mega-casinos) or win things -until my business card was plucked from a bowl at last year's Caribbean Tourism Organization Media Event in New York (actually, I also once won a trip from Antigua Tourism, who refused to honor the award). I couldn't believe my good fortune. I had won a 3 nights stay, with meals for two at The Nesbit Beach Plantation Beach Club on the island of Nevis. Add a pair of frequent-flyer award tickets (be flexible!) and we had lucked into the perfect way for Marilla and I to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

It takes a little extra effort to get to Nevis, but its more than worth it if an authentic little piece of The West Indies is what you are after. We had taken AA to St. Kitt's via Miami, then grabbed a taxi down to the ferry dock in the very flavorful, old capital city of Basseterre. Lined with busy cooksheds, the ferry dock played host to a motley 'Beat The Devil' collection of travelers: tie-wearing West Indian businessmen, islanders returning from errands, a sprinkling of tourists like ourselves and raffish ex-pats up to who knows what. Waiting in the heat, the crowd was worked by several of the town's mentally-ill unfortunates. Just when it seemed the situation was reaching critical mass, we, along with a couple of vehicles and inter-island supplies were boarded upon the decidedly vintage 'Sea Hustler' (EC$25 plus EC$1 port fee p/p). We climbed up some ladder-like stairways and found ourselves a breezy bench next to the pilothouse where we could enjoy the 40 minute crossing and a cold 'Carib' beer (EC$4).


Our arrival was made all the more auspicious when we were greeted by the friendly face of John Andrews, who was waiting at the dock to offer us a lift to our hotel. If Basseterre is a throw-back to an old-time West Indies town, then Nevis's only 'city' Charlestown, is even more so. Take away the cars and signs and Alexander Hamilton would have little trouble recognizing his home town. Old balconied stone buildings housing shops (perhaps one where the statesman had apprenticed) still crowd the narrow streets. Within minutes we were out of the town, passing the shuttered 4 Seasons Resort, Nevis's grossly under-utilized airport, and pulling up the drive of Nisbet Plantation (

A Young Prince Charles: happier times at Nesbit (1973) -what happened? Pictured here with Nesbit's Harriet Turner, the photo of The Prince Of Wales hangs in the cocktail lounge of The Nesbit Greathouse.

Nesbit Greathouse, built 1778: as it is today.

Shown to our cottage, we were touched to find it decorated with anniversary balloons, fruit, a bottle of wine and small bottles of 'Ting' and cane spirits -'Ting with a Sting' we were jokingly informed. There was just time for a quick swim that segued into the weekly Manager's Cocktail Party (rum punch, wine and hot hors d'oeuvres like tannia fritters and delicious wahoo 'nuggets'). The cookout with live band that follows is a Thursday night institution on Nevis that attracts guests from other hotels as well as Nevisians.

Quite frankly, some people might find Nesbit (and Nevis for that matter) too relaxing. It is assuredly devoid of glitz. Probably more by way of 'default mode' Nevis has retained its rural character. If you wake up early enough, you'll probably met the neighboring cows who wander on to the resort's grounds to breakfast on the expansive lawn that sweeps down to the sea. Sleep late and you'll never know they were there. We tended to close the bar and be the last ones out of the dining room, usually by 9:20PM. Islanders, who travel far afield for employment, find themselves drawn back to Nevis, always citing its 'quiet' as a reason. However, there is nightlife: Sunshine's on Pinney's Beach near town features DJ music (and its notorious 'killer bee' punch). Resorts and bars usually offer nightly entertainment of some sort on a revolving basis. John tipped us off to a new scene happening at Riviera House on the Government Road near the hospital. After an elegant dinner at the greathouse, we couldn't resist the siren-call of our cozy cottage, but heard Riviera was fun. Let me know how it is if you ever make it there.
Turf wars: A land crab guards it's little bit of Nesbit's spectacular lawn.

Being as small as Nevis is, it's quite easy to get around by hailing one of the mini-buses that troll the main road for fares. They have colorful names and will have an 'H' included on their license plate. From Nisbet (which is a bit further from town than the airport) into Charlestown usually costs EC$4 per person. A connecting bus onwards from town to the cutoff for The Hermitage, where we were heading for lunch, was EC$3 per person. If the driver knows you, or it suits them, they'll drop you off at your destination even though it is not directly on their route. Mini-buses can be found waiting for passengers on the two tiny 'squares' in Charlestown. Feel free to speak clearly and ask which direction they're going, when and how much it will cost.

Plaque of Fanny Nesbitt, mounted in the massive hearth that is all that remains of the plantation's cookhouse.

The Nesbit Plantation Beach Club is the island's only plantation inn on its own beach. It's even more renown as the former home of Frances 'Fanny' Nesbitt, the island widow who famously married the future Lord Admiral Nelson (they wed under a cottonwood tree at Montpelier, another family estate that is also now an up-scale inn). The wedding is listed in the register of St. John's 'Fig Tree' Church (circa 1680). Fanny is popularly thought of as an older widow, however she was actually only 22 when she married Nelson. Also not often mentioned is this love story's less than happy ending: see; 'That Hamilton Woman' - Vivien Leigh, Lawrence Olivier (1941) -one of the movies much screened on WOR's 'Million Dollar Movie' during my childhood.Vivien Leigh as 'That Hamilton Woman'. Gladys Cooper played the wronged Fanny.

The Hermitage (, whose greathouse is claimed to be the oldest wooden home in the West Indies (circa 1640), also has a reputation for the best food on the island. My curried chicken roti (boneless!) with home-made mango chutney (US$12) and Marilla's fried flying fish (US$18), certainly were tasty, but it's worth the price just to sit on the Hermitage's marvelous verandah. After lunch we were shown around the grounds, including the 'ghaut' (gully) were the monkeys congregate in the morning and evenings.

Almina, a potter at 'Newcastle Pottery'. The studio is near the entrance to Nesbit Plantation. It's nice to bring back a souvenir actually made on the island, at the same time supporting a traditional island handicraft that predates the arrival of Columbus. We bought the fish-shaped candle holder for US$18, although there were many items for much less.

Return to St. Kitt's, Nevis can be seen across 'The Channel'.
For schedule reasons, the Sea Bridge ferry (; EC$20 per person), then a shared cab, US$10 per person, proved our best option for returning to St. Kitts for our flight home. An islander who introduced herself as 'Sweet Pea' offered us places to sit and struck up a conversation. Like I've said, locals are often pleasantly chatty and ready to fill you in on island gossip -like which drivers and boat operators were in 'cahoots' with each other. Remember, Nevis is a small place. Talk turned to The 4 Seasons. If the island was only going to have only one major resort, 4 Seasons was a good option, attracting a high-end clientele with nothing 'brassy' about it. Sort of what The Ritz-Carlton would be if... . Sorely missed by islanders, the S4's closing due to hurricane damage caused a classic economic ripple effect; loss of employment, then less visitors to the island as American Eagle dropped servicing Nevis. Sweet Pea mentioned that the resort had subsidized the flights and that she heard the resort was scheduled to reopen this November. "I sure hope so' she added, "a lot of folks depended on The 4 Seasons". The surplus amphibious assault vessel pulled into Major's Bay, St. Kitt's. Except for folks meeting the ferry, the bay was deserted but like most of St. Kitt's east end, it's slated for major development.

if you visit Nevis:
A nice, chatty driver in St. Kitts (SK&N people tend to be friendly): Queen Maneva 869 664 1401; air-conditioned van, call ahead, $10 from airport to ferry dock in Basseterre. Will do beach excursions, etc. My 'Dear Friend Andy' (as Moe Howard once addressed him in a letter) Goldfarb recommends 'Uncle Millie' who he met during a recent stay at Timothy's Beach Resort on St.. Kitts. I'll get his number ASAP. Anders also spoke highly of something called the 'Shiddety Shack' (what will these kids think of next?).

EC vs. USD: Although 'king dollar' is accepted everywhere on the island, it pays to use 'Eastern Caribbean dollars, the local currency. The exchange rate has long been stable at around USD1 to EC$2.68, proffered USD is usually rounded out to EC2.50 or less, with change returned in EC, or no change given at all.

Remember to set aside US$22. or the equivalent for the various exit taxes and airport fees that will be collected after you check in for your departure from St. Kitt's Bradshaw International (SKB). Cash only.

As seen from the pool at Nisbet: St. Kitt's in the distance.

Coming right up: An even quicker trip to Mankato, Minnesota with The Fleshtones: "A little travelin' music, Sammy!..." (in progress)
The Fleshtones were back in action thanks to...

...Shelley, Tim and all the nice folks at KMSU, who invited us to Mankato, MN to play a special 'audience appreciation' show along with the Legendary Stardust Cowboy on 05/21 -quite a bill. Pictured is Lee's Liquor Lounge, Minneapolis, MN, the cleanest club in the USA -no, the world, where we played the night before.

Also, the world's cleanest (and most interesting, no brainless grafitti here) bandroom in Lee's finished basement, where I could have stayed all night, or as long as the 'Grain Belt' beer held out -thanks to all the guys in The Anonymus, who opened (and brought the Grain Belt) along with the Fuck Knights.
The next day our route to Mankato took us along the Minnesota River. We passed through Le Sueur, the lovely 'Valley of the Green Giant'. A cutout of the friendly giant peers over the tree-tops, greeting motorists on US169. We did not stop to buy any cans of 'Le Sueur' peas, but it did remind us of those infamous 'out-takes' of Orson Wells attempting to do 'voice-overs' for Bird's Eye peas -"In July..."

More of the blue stuff, Mankato MN


My brother-in-law, songwriter Henry Gaffney, died peacefully at his home in Sharon, CT on Sunday May 23, 2010. He penned songs for artists from Whitney Houston to The Four Tops. Enamored with the elegance of the Cole Porter era (and recognizing the commercial shrewdness of Billy Joel) Henry's music wasn't exactly my thing. More crucial for me, he was extremely generous (and wise) in his guidance to this just starting off novice in the wonderland that is the music business. He would chuckle at that -although not a cynic himself, he clearly recognized the cynicism (and good) that swirls around us. I think I honor him best with the seriousness I have held fast to his advice. Yes, I think I'll hang on to my 'publishing', no matter what the lawyers say. Possessing peace of mind, Henry shall surely rest in peace.

-Peter Zaremba

Friday, May 7, 2010

Blue Curaçao

in-flight service: AA11879 (04/28/10), etc, see: Zaremblog

More blue -pool at The Avila Beach Hotel

Willemstad, April 30, 2010
It never rains in Curaçao. It was raining -quite hard. It was early morning Queen's Day, a national holiday in The Kingdom of The Netherlands (of which Curaçao is a part) and 'official' birthday of Queen Beatrix. 'Official' because her birthday is actually in January. However, she decreed that it should be celebrated every April 30th as this was the birthday of her mother, the beloved Queen Juliana.
No matter how Curaçaoans feel about The Netherlands, Queen Beatrix and the royal family seem to held in almost universal esteem on the island. Everyone was preparing to pour into downtown Willemstad to celebrate, donning articles of orange clothing in honor of The Royal House of Nassau-Orange. I would have gladly done the same, but wound up lamely explaining many times that I just didn't pack any orange-colored clothes for the trip. Of course, the next day I remembered my golf jacket -orange, intensely orange. I'm not Dutch, but I do like to participate.

Queens's Day: wearing the orange.

I had gotten really geared up for the festivities the night before. I was having a 'Polar' (the locally popular Venezuelan beer) and chatting with the staff at the bar of Baoase Resort (, a Balinese-inspired boutique hotel with a private beach and villas clustered around a jungle-y swimming pool. Everyone was excited: there would be continuous DJs and live music at several locations in Willemstad. "Don't even try to get into town on Queen's Day!" I was warned. Most anticipated by the Baoase staff was to be an appearance by 'Golden Earring'. I couldn't have cared less for Golden Earring during their heyday (which was ...?), but the general enthusiasm was infectious. I couldn't remember any of their hits. On Queen's Day someone in a shop reminded me by singing a few bars of 'Radar Love'. Anyway, according to my official 'Wat is er te doen op Koninginnedag?' (What is there to doin' on Queen's Day?) program, what was really in store for Curaçao was 'Rockveteranen The Owners & Barry Hay van de Golden Earring' -a bit of self-explanatory Dutch that you can figure out as easily as I did. Now, as the rain persisted, someone from the hotel said they expected the intense showers to continue all morning. I started to think the weather might put a damper on the celebrations, but then the sun came out to stay. It doesn't rain much in Curaçao.

Baoase: entrance to pool from villa 4

Anyway, I've been sweating over a typically long-winded treatise on my observations on Curaçao and it's parallels with New York. You know, Peter Stuyvesent, guilders, the early 17th century explosion of Dutch energy as Holland's fleet sailed forth from Amsterdam with brooms lashed to the masts to 'sweep' the English from the seas and all that, but now I figure I'll just stick to some nice pictures and (long -ha ha!) captions:

Willemstad waterfront; 'Punda'

I had been fascinated with the idea of Curaçao ever since I saw a color photo of Willemstad's colorful Dutch-style buildings in my Golden Book Of The World, vol. North America, that I had badgered my mother into buying at the A&P check-out counter when I was six. My Dad explained that Curaçao was a Dutch island in the Caribbean that he had visited during his sailing days (no, not a yacht -the merchant marine). The largest of the Dutch 'ABC' Caribbean islands, Curaçao is about 37 miles long, or about the same distance from the island to the South American mainland. On a clear day they say you can see the mountain tops of Venezuela. You can more easily see and hear the Latin American influence, and that of more distant Africa, all round you in Curaçao's architecture, food, language and music. The island is best known for an orange-flavored liqueur, but I'll get to that later.

As I was saying, operations in New York (then New Amsterdam) and Curaçao were both set up by the Dutch at about the same time for different commercial purposes. Curaçao's moneymakers were salt (for herring) and slavery. New York's was fur. Manhattan has zero buildings to remind us of the city's Dutch roots. Curaçao has the entire city of Willemstad. Although often cited as a Dutch town transported to the Caribbean, Willemstad's languid tropical clime, marked South American influence and townhouses painted in striking, cotton-candy pastels, is quite unlike anything in the Netherlands. A UNESCO world heritage site, the historic city has proven such a signature tourist attraction that in very recent times smaller faux versions of it have materialized in other Dutch islands such as Aruba and St. Martin, where nothing of the sort had ever existed before.

Pehna Building

Tall flemish-style buildings, like the Pehna Building (1708) line the busy streets and waterfront cafes snuggle under the ramparts of the sturdy forts that protected the entrance to the harbor. Another Willemstad landmark is the Queen Emma 'floating bridge' (circa 1888, re-constructed 1939) that spans Sint Annabaai channel separating the city's two sections of Punda and Otrobanda ('point' and 'other bank' or 'shore' in Papiamento, the island's Spanish-based creole). As ugly and intrusive as it is practical, the soaring Queen Juliana Bridge was opened Queen's Day, 1976, to relieve the massive tie-ups caused whenever the Queen Emma Bridge swings open for sea-going traffic (which is often). The only other positive thing about the new bridge: the view of Willemstad while crossing it is magnificent.

Queen Emma Bridge: 'closed'

and 'open'...

I wasn't disappointed, the blue curaçao thing started happening right off the bat. Upon my arrival at Baoase, I was welcomed with a cocktail mixed with the stuff, although the addition of fresh orange and kiwi juices had turn the drink to a lovely, opaque green. I tried to have something mixed with blue curaçao each of the four days I was on the island -it's most popular use being in a 'blue lagoon' made with either gin or vodka.

The island's famous name-sake liqueur is made from the peels of locally-grown bitter orange. Faintly amber in its 'natural' state, Curaçao is then dyed red, orange or any other color you might want. It's the classic 'blue' that makes showy cocktails look like window-cleaner all around the world.

Cocktails at Baoase: Piper-Heidsieck, Blue Curaçao and a dash of grenadine -a sort of Baollini (Baoase +Bellini)

Most people familiar with the band know that The Fleshtones have a long and venerable relationship with this liqueur, going back to the legendary house -parties where the band got its start in Whitestone, Queens. Fueled by trash-cans full of lethal, Windex-hued 'Blue Whale' -the 'blue' was provided by blue curaçao. I remember it being my turn to answer the door one of the many times the police were called to the house by irate neighbors one night -a cop entered, and stepping over a girl passed out on the floor, wryly commented in New York cop fashion 'if that were my daughter, I'd put a bullet in her head...". Occasionally we still mix up a trash barrel full on request (special occasions!). Keith Streng first introduced the drink to the band, and although pretty much a teetotaler these days, remains the mix-meister. Invite him to your next soirée to insure the evening's ignition and rapid lift-off. Recipes for the cocktail even appear on at least one of our album jackets -I believe the sought-after 'Fleshtones Living Legend Series' on IRS records, as well as in the book 'Sweat' by Joe Bonomo ( Check out the Fleshtone's clip "Right Side Of A Good Thing' on Youtube for a gander at a pond -full of blue whale (and some glimpses of the young Bangles).

Willemstad's marvelous 'Floating Market', where schooners laden with tropical produce from nearby Venezuela tie up along the quay . The vendors sleep on board their boats.

Floating market: sapodilla

Queen's Day menu; Plasa Bieu

Plasa Bieu! -hot!!

Across the 'Waaigatplein' from the floating market is 'Marshe Bieuw' or 'Plasa Bieu!' (old market) an immense blue shed with yellow lattice walls, now an eatery catering to the market crowd. Inside, a counter runs the length of the shed, behind which kitchens with names like 'Zus di Plaza' and 'Gracia di Dios' dole out substantial servings of 'Kuminda Krioyo' from huge kettles simmering over hot coals. There was goat stew, grilled 'kabritu' (kid), sopa di coco (seafood in coconut soup), curries and satay. Our guide from the tourist office said that her little son had made her promise to bring home some arepa di pampuna (pumpkin pancakes) -greasy-good and better without the raisins -about NAf 5 (I didn't want to get into this, but the price is in Netherland Antilles 'florins' more popularly known as 'guilders' -the equivalent of about 67¢US each).

A Fung, Plasa Bieu: who says chow mein is boring?

Near the 'Plasa Bieu' or 'Marshe Bieuw' (old market) was 'Marshe Nobo' -a circular, concrete market crowded with cosmetic counters, 'botanicas' and Dominican herbalists with bottles of home-made tonics like 'mamajuana'. At the entrance, an organ grinder (kaha di orgel) struck up a old-fashioned air, with a lively latin beat loudly scraped out by a guy on a metal 'guiro'. I shot a nice 'video' with my pocket camera, then accidently erased it trying to shoot a second version 'just to be safe'. I later discovered I had neither. I also wound up not seeing Golden Earring. Probably for the better.
Soon after crossing the Queen Emma Bridge into Otrobanda, I heard that the police had closed the entire downtown to any more traffic.

Moon 'Beach Club' There's no beach to speak of -really a chic 'Miami' style pool/lounge in one of the old mansions that line the shore in Willemstad -the type of place where they spin cool sounds like 'Sade' -although I don't recall actually hearing Sade there. I had a 'blue lagoon' and wished I had brought my bathing suit, although the fabulous pool was really more of a focal point for stylish Curaçaoan's cocktails and conversation. I wonder what it's like during the day? (

Blue lagoon; Moon

The moon also rises: dinner, fit for a queen at Avila Beach Hotel ( In fact the Queen of The Netherlands and the royal family stay here when visiting Curaçao, although for security reasons hotel director Tone Møller would not reveal which rooms. But I've got a good idea. We had keeshi yena, (from the Spanish 'queso 'relleno') formerly made by stuffing the discarded rinds of gouda or edam cheeses with piccadillo (spicy chopped meat).

Brian Spaeth (The Clock Stopped At A Strange And Savage Hour was right, caves make me think of papier-mâché and the cheap horror movies that fascinated us as children -like 'World Of The Vampires' (starring Ramon Gay, Mexico,1960). Hato Caves make a nice diversion, soothing to sun-blasted eyes and with lots of toy-like little bats fluttering around. The pre-columbian (?) rock drawings however, are off limits.

Shastre Veeris, son of herbalist Dina Veeris, Dina Veeris Herb Garden

home-made soaps; Dina Veeris Herb Garden, one of the best tours of its kind (

Aloe Vera Plantation ( I don't put much stock in natural cures and homeopathic medicine, but will personally attest to the efficacy of this spiny member of the lily family (I learned that here) -I had some persistent blisters on my knuckles caused by some noxious plant in our yard back home. I rubbed some fresh aloe vera on at the plantation, and forgot about it. The next morning, the blisters had healed.

Street: Otrobanda

Inside Kura Hulanda: 'street scene'

The Hotel Kura Hulanda preserves several of the oldest blocks of the 'Otrobanda' neighborhood. It may seem odd to book a hotel in the Caribbean with no beach, but you can always stay at their 'Lodge Kura Hulanda & Beach Club', then make the in-town location your base to explore the city for a few nights. (

Kura Hulanda Slave Museum: slave-ship hold, without the stench or misery.
Kura Hulanda's eight blocks also incorporates an extensive Slavery Museum (US$9), quite relevant as slavery was once Curaçao's main business. A bit of a house(s) of genuine horrors -our excellent guide's gripping explanations of the exhibits often departed considerably from their captions.

Iguana: Before, and after...
Occupying a rambling country house, Jaanchie's has been a roadside attraction for locals and tourists alike since 1936. As Tone of the Avila Beach Hotel pointed out, businesses on the island couldn't get by just on the tourist trade. This is a good thing, with restaurants and hotels more authentic (and lower priced) than on islands like Aruba. Local creole cooking is the attraction here, along with great, tall glasses of refreshing lemonade; buy a glass of cheap 'white' rum to spike them with and they're even better.

Jaanchie Jr.
One of Jaanchie's specialties is iguana, which winds up stewed and in soup. Unfortunately (for the harmless lizard), iguana is considered an aphrodisiac by the men of the island. Yes, yes, it tastes like chicken, but with a heck of a lot more (smaller) bones -well, maybe better than chicken -bit more like rabbit, only with shorter legs and a much longer 'saddle'.

Despite what people (who haven't been to Curaçao) say, the island does have wonderful beaches, but they are concentrated at the island's western end, not in the city. Here the formidable cliffs are notched with beautiful sandy coves. Look for Captain Goodlife's wildly decorated headquarters on the extreme left hand side of Playa Santa Cruz. His orange frites (I'm guessing -annetto?) are famous across the island and the same goes for his shrimp, calamari, oysters and other seafood. As our group discovered, they sure can fry stuff on this island.
The intensely mystical Captain operates what might be the best boat tour on the island. For USD20 a person, he'll take you out to the renown 'Blue Room' -a long, (very) low 'swim-in' sea-cave who's interior reflects and amplifies the water's brilliant, deep cobalt color; snorkeling over the wreak of a ship sunk by his father; and a drop-off on a black sand beach. Because we'd be in and out of the water, the captain advised leaving cameras behind, which I gladly did. I wish had brought my camera. Now I really was seeing the intense 'Curaçao blue' waters that might have been the inspiration for the intense hue of blue curaçao. Peering over the side of the boat the Captain pointed saying "look, there it is! Can you see the small pyramid?" Through the rippling, deep blue water I could make out flashes of a small dark, cairn against the pale sand far below - the undersea resting place of the Captain's little daughter Antonella who had succumbed to leukemia two years ago.

Curaçao, blue and otherwise at Angelina's, a cooking school-restaurant in an old Otrobanda mansion where guests learn to prepare their own creole meal -including 'arepa di pampuna' with curaçao liqueur sauce (

Now, after all these years, I was finally heading for the Mansion Chobolobo Distillery ( creators and sole producers of genuine Curaçao liqueur. Housed in an old 'landhuis' (country house =plantation home) it's an attraction in itself. It was closed in observance of May Day (when most of the world marks Labor Day). My plane departed Curaçao 7AM the next morning.
-Peter Zaremba

Curaçao map insert -polished metal, floor near threshhold of villa 4, Baoase.

Back In Action: The Fleshtones return to the stage (or what passes for one) -
May 20; Minneapolis, MN -Lee's
May 21; Mankato MN, -The Sky Lounge w/ The Legendary Stardust Cowboy
May 22; Ossining NY ('A Thousand Years In SingSing'?) a birthday party (you'll know where if you are invited...)