The Rear View Mirror… PAZAZ™ Style

Sometimes to predict the future we look to the past while we live in the present. The past is clear as we unmask the circumstances that create our destiny. Our present can be explained by the stepping stones we follow that are an accumulation of vision, analysis, and process. Then there is the formula for our ultimate future which depends greatly on the books we read and the friends we associate with.

As we look back in time we can give pause to glance at some of the greatest moments of our lives and sometimes the epic failures. This is why life isn’t the straight path to enlightenment but a roller coaster reflecting the ebbs and flows of everyday existence. I’m sure that most of you would agree that our greatest lessons are those that begin with hope and end in failure.

One of the significant benefits to our lives is remembering those moments that are etched in the memory banks of our minds. Some of those experiences are the first time we see or live in a moment that becomes an occasion we will never forget.

There are many moments that distinguish a full life stretching from (in my case) Fairfax, California to Henderson, Nevada. Along the way there are side roads, cul-de-sacs, highways, and sometimes dead ends (shaken not stirred) that reflect the outcome of our circumstance.

I remember exchanging valentines day cards with my favorite female classmates when I was in the first grade through the third grade. Those were wonderful expressions of puppy love that opened the door to future romances later in life. I would spend hours crafting the perfect thought for my Valentine’s Day card for each female student representing something I didn’t even know one percent about. I would open each Valentine card from those girls with anticipation of what my mind could only imagine for a nano second. True love at that point was just a smile, a wink, or a kind word. Beautiful in its simplicity and innocent in its purest form.

Next there was Easter, which to me (at that point in life) was about the Easter bunny, candy, and finding the Easter baskets my parents would hide around our home in Fairfax. I used to love searching for those baskets carefully hidden by my parents. In the baskets was every kind of chocolate candy you could imagine, typically launching me into a diabetic coma (with a smile on my face).

My favorite candy was the chocolate Easter bunny which was about five inches tall made out of milk chocolate. After eating some of the candy I would typically find the neighborhood kids and we’d run around in circles until dinner was ready. Then, we’d go back to our homes to patiently eat dinner and then bury our heads in more baskets of candy.

The fourth of July wasn’t like it is today. There were a few fireworks but none in our neighborhood. They weren’t displayed on TV or talked about much. I do however remember barbecues that revolved around my dad’s barbecued chicken with my mom’s famous barbecue sauce. I still remember how delicious those meals were accompanied with potato salad, jello salad, string beans with bacon, and apple pie for dessert with vanilla ice cream, of course.

My birthday was next with all the pomp and circumstance an only child could imagine. The neighborhood kids were invited and we’d all go to the park or have a host of games at our home. Pin the tail on the donkey was the highlight from the game repertoire and usually ended up with one or more of the participants losing their lunch (after the spinning) all over the patio. Laughter and huge smiles were the order of the day as the kids played in a time when there were no computers, cell phones, or other devices to distract from the pure joy of human connection.

As the gauntlet of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas was on the horizon the beauty of life at that time was the simplicity in which the future was unveiled. I really can’t thank my parents enough for the countless hours spent teaching me about the arts, education, and the moral and ethical lessons they lived by. But the greatest gift they gave me that helped launch me into the person I’ve become is the simple message of love expressed in every action, every day, for as long as they both lived.

Coltrane and Miles

Coltrane is to the Burgundy region of France as Miles is to the Bordeaux region of France.

Coltrane brings a sad, sultry sound, maybe even dark, but definitely rich and rewarding in its own unique display. This soul searching sound frames any tune he plays with an intellectual composition deep in meaning and carefully constructed. He defines his craft from the slow and melodic almost breathy tone to what Down Beat magazine called, “Sheets of Sound” using a technique that involves playing really fast and using slurred glissandos. A glissando is a glide from one pitch to another up or down.

When Coltrane played with singer Johnny Hartman accompanied with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on double bass, and Elvin Jones on drums he created a symphony of music that transcended jazz. The album John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman is a must have for any jazz aficionado. Even for those sticking their proverbial toe in the water of jazz, this album is rich in complexity and one of the most soothing and melodic collaborations in the history of jazz. When you listen to “They say it’s Wonderful” or “Lush Life” let the beauty take you to places you may have never traveled in any musical idiom.

This musical treasure from Coltrane and Hartman offers complexity that is enriched by simplicity. As the magic unfolds in the aforementioned album so to unfolds the French red Burgundian wine called Domain Romanee Conti, or simply DRC. Its forceful bouquet of violet mixed with a scent of cherry, and a whisper of earth, leads to the unveiling of a profound ruby robe accentuated by exceptional finesse.

There could never be a more perfect union of music and wine than the collaboration of Coltrane and Hartman while breathing in and slowly immersing ones self (drop by drop) in the expertise of the hand-crafted DRC. This Pinot Noir is simply referred to as “one of the greatest wines in the world”. Founded in 1869 the first vintage dates back to 1232. DRC is an Appellation referred to as an AOC and Grand Cru vineyard situated within the commune of Vosne-Romanee located in the Burgundy region of France. The finest vintages (in my humble opinion) would be 1962, 1978, and more recently 2016. Drink any of the 100 point DRC vintages and you will travel from this solar system to another galaxy in which all other experiences would be judged.

Let’s now move over to legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. For me the first album that had the most significant impact when I began listening to jazz was the album, “Kind of Blue”. This album featured a group of musicians that would have tremendous success in their own right (John Coltrane tenor sax, “Cannonball” Adderley alto sax, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Jimmy Cobb, and of course trumpeter Miles Davis).

“Kind of Blue” changed the way jazz was taught and analyzed. This album is the number one selling jazz album of all time. The album formed an ethereal atmosphere creating different moods or coloration. The harmonic relationships shift between cool jazz and the “harmonic rhythm” of post -bop jazz and the inventiveness of the individual players helps to create this seminal recording session.

Miles Davis was the personification of the “restless” spirit always pushing himself and his music into uncharted territory. His music was a lightening rod for musicians of all genres. I loved his staccato tones brooding and melodic woven with an introspective sound that defines his soul, his love for his instrument, and the boundaries he extended with his genius.

Miles Davis is to music as the first growth red Bordeaux’s are to wine. There was only one Miles Davis and no one could replicate his style. There are only five first growth Bordeaux wines or “premier cru classes” ( Haut Brion, Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild, Margaux and Latour), and no one can replicate their power, influence, and finesse.

The classification to rank French wines in the region of Bordeaux is known as the classification of 1855. The original classification listed only four but Rothschild with his influence and power elevated Mouton Rothschild to first growth status in 1973. Each wine has its own signature profile but suffice it to say that these wines represent extraordinary quality influenced by the finest terroir, soil, and winemaker skill set.

Three of the first growth Bordeaux’s are located in the Pauillac region of Bordeaux (Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Latour). One is located in Margaux (Chateau Margaux) and the last (Chateau Haute-Brion) is located in Graves.

Bordeaux first growth vintages that you should drink include the following:

  • 1959,
  • 1961,
  • 2011,
  • 2015

The “Bordeaux blend” represents five grape varietals that make up the composition of the wine. These five grapes are Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Merlot, and Malbec. Very much like the famous quintet that Miles put together, the five grapes in the “Bordeaux blend” rely on quality, consistency, and the harmony that takes single exceptional components and marries them into the perfect composition.

If you have a chance, sit and enjoy listening to Miles Davis “Kind of Blue” album, specifically the “Blue in Green” track while viewing the waves slowly overtaking the sand as you drink (as though it was your last)… the 2015 Chateau Latour.

This blog is sponsored by PAZAZ™ “The Magic of Cooking” Kitchen tools for the discerning chef. Please go to www.pazazshop.com to purchase these “AMAZING” kitchen tools.

A Very Special Holiday

Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day, but no matter what you call it this is a federal holiday in the United States. Memorial Day honors and mourns for the military personnel who have died in the performance of their military duty while serving in the United States Armed Forces. An interesting but seldom observed fact is that the U.S. flag is flown at half mast till noon and to full post after noon till evening. Below chronicles some very interesting facts concerning this holiday.

The civil war ended in the spring of 1865 and claimed more lives than any conflict in US history. This event spurned the establishment of the country’s first national cemetery. By the late 1860’s Americans in various towns and cities began holding springtime tributes to these fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.

The first historical reference to Memorial Day, the first celebration, is a tribute to both color and character. When Charleston fell and Confederate troops evacuated the badly damaged city, those freed from enslavement remained. One of the first things those emancipated men and women did was to give the fallen Union prisoners a proper burial. You see the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club in Charleston South Carolina was a makeshift prison for Union captives. More than 260 Union soldiers died from disease and exposure while being held in the race track’s open air infield. Their bodies were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstands.

The freed slaves exhumed the mass grave and reinterred the bodies in a new cemetery with a tall whitewashed fence inscribed with the words: “Martyrs of the Race Course.” And now for the rest of the story:

On May 1st, 1865 something extraordinary happened. According to two reports from the New York Tribune and the Charleston Courier a crowd of 10,000 people, mostly freed slaves with some White and Black missionaries staged a parade around the race track. Three thousand Black schoolchildren carried bouquets of flowers and sang “John Brown’s Body.” Members of the famed 54th Massachusetts and other Black Union regiments were in attendance and performed double-time marches and Black ministers recited verses from the Bible.

This gathering in 1865 at the Charleston race track would be the earliest Memorial Day commemoration on record. This observance was organized by freed slaves in Charleston at least a year before other U.S. cities and three years before the first national observance.

My grandfather was in the military and is buried in Golden Gate Cemetery located in San Bruno California. I remember the eerie sight that reflected the majesty of the gravestones aligned so perfectly in a symmetrical display of sadness. As most people that fought in wars my grandfather didn’t speak of the war too often. His stories usually centered around the brave young men that became brothers, scared and yet determined to protect their fellow soldiers and their country from harm.

My earliest recollection of this holiday was when my family would (on Memorial Day and my grandfather Bill’s birthday) drive to the Golden Gate Cemetery and place flowers on Bill’s grave while speaking of the wonderful man he was. Seldom did we ever miss a birthday or Memorial Day to honor this very special person.

The fleeting time I spent (when I was very young) with my grandfather was highlighted by our conversations and checker games. He was very proud of his service, loved his family, and would give the shirt off of his back to help anyone in distress.

Memorial Day provides us with a time to honor the memories of those that have died to protect our freedom. While there is much dissent now between a majority of Americans it is important that we understand and honor the sacrifice of our military men and women. We could possibly have no opinion voiced in public ruled by a tyrannical government that stifles our most important constitutional right, free speech.

Perhaps today along with barbecues and celebration we can bow our heads in quiet reverence to those that have given the ultimate sacrifice.

This blog is sponsored by PAZAZ™ “The Magic of Cooking” Kitchen tools for the Discerning Chef. Please go to www.pazazshop.com to purchase these “AMAZING” Kitchen Tools.

Mother’s Day…

mother's day - pazaz bakeware
I would like to think that if your mother is still alive you hold this holiday very dear to your heart. I would also like to think that if she is not alive you cherish the memories you shared over the course of a lifetime.

Mother’s day is a day to honor your mother. Usually this takes on the form of a card, flowers, and even a meal (if you are lucky enough to have her close to you). The many times we shared this special day revolved around how blessed I was to have her in my life. The very special moments I remember sometimes seemed like mundane events but looking back, accentuated the fact that I miss her everyday.

My mom, Dorothy, used to consume her steak a certain way with each bite using a different condiment until the very center of the steak, the prize, was delightfully enjoyed. I remember the smile on her face and her hands giving a happy sign to signify the utter joy in this simple yet satisfying experience.

“How Grateful I Would Be To Have Just One More Day”

By Kathy J. Parenteau

“If I could have just one more day and wishes did come true,
I’d spend every glorious moment side by side with you.
Recalling all the years we shared and memories we made,
how grateful I would be to have just one more day.
Where the tears I’ve shed are not in vain and only fall in bliss.
So many things I’d let you know about the days you’ve missed.
I wouldn’t have to make pretend you never went away.
How grateful I would be to have just one more day.
When that day came to a close and the sun began to set,
a million times I’d let you know I never will forget
the heart of gold you left behind when you entered Heaven’s gate.
How grateful I would be to have just one more day. “

When I was younger she would help me with little booklets that taught me English, history, and math. She would also help me memorize my lines for the many plays I was in. In addition to teaching me just about everything I knew she also helped me with my violin lessons.

My mom was a concert pianist and would go over every piece to help me with my intonation and violin lessons which I would have to complete for that week. She would read my homework to make sure I completed the assignments, and through that process exhibited the patience of Jobe. My teenage years proved to be a bit challenging. Not because I was such a problem but because I didn’t drive.

Orchestra was at 7:15 am, football practice after school, then drama practice across town. Each day was some type of practice which involved orchestra outside of school, singing, violin lessons, etc. My mom never complained about the schedule and many times would wait for me to complete my lesson or practice.

Through-out all of this she had debilitating arthritis. Never once did she complain about her maladies though it was hard for her to walk. In addition to that her hands showed the arthritis disease in the form of swelling and curvature. Her inner strength, intelligence, and kindness were on display everyday. My mom was chairman of the Cancer Society for Marin County and she orchestrated drive schedules for many drivers that would pick up cancer patients that were either too frail to drive or were less fortunate and didn’t own a car. This led to her receiving an award where she was recognized by a San Francisco radio station as a person that gave so much back to society. I can not begin to express how grateful I was to be blessed to have my mom in my life (though it was for to short a period of time).

I look back and smile at the time we spent together. If ever there was a person that made the world a better place… it was my mom. I hope and pray that all that read this will either reach out to their mom or remember that time together you hold so dear.

This blog is sponsored by PAZAZ ™ “The Magic of Cooking” Kitchen tools for the discerning chef. Please go to pazazshop.com to purchase these “AMAZING” kitchen tools.

Our Comfort Zone… The Best Things Never Change!

Bring us back to the Beatles, rotary phones, bean bag chairs, lava lamps, and incense. This, mixed in with bell bottom pants, flower shirts, and an occasional bottle of cold duck… and you have the perfect recipe for time travel.

When we travel back in time to our “Comfort Zone” you will notice the lifting of certain stress enhancing factors that have magically disappeared. No more cell phones, lap tops, or any other communicative devices. We actually have to speak to each other face to face. No Zoom calls, Face Time, or any other technological short cut. Also, none of those four hundred calls a day about life insurance, car insurance, reverse mortgages, hearing devices, cremation, or warranty extensions. As Martin Luther King would say, “Free at last, we are free at last.”

The best things that never change are our commitments to our family, appreciation of natural beauty, treasuring the arts (music, poetry, stories, books, art, etc.) and finally the random acts of kindness that bring an unexpected smile to our mind, heart, and soul.

Sometimes to achieve this time travel we must venture to the unspoiled wilderness that offers no expression but the faint utterance of change that slowly turns creeks to rivers and crevices to canyons.

The unmitigated evaporation of tension when we are in nature supplies us with an ability to drink in the sensory experience. We connect to this powerful force drawn to its subtlety and energized by its host of dynamic interludes. Within this network of natures symphony of sounds is the prelude to our understanding of the peace that becomes our internal voice.

When this perfect storm arrives we become enriched as God intended. So simple, so subtle, so beautiful. In this state we can accomplish anything… the worthwhile formulation of an uncomplicated theory.

This theory that is inside all of us is the strength that becomes our comfort zone. This places us in a picture that is constantly changing, within parts of us that will never change. No travel required but the six inch distance between our ears.

The Waves the Waves

Occurring and Occurring

Always Threaten to Drown Me…

Until I Realize

I am the Ocean.

This blog is sponsored by PAZAZ™ “The Magic of Cooking” Kitchen tools for the discerning chef. Please go to wwwpazazshop.com to purchase these AMAZING kitchen tools.