Tag Archives: Jimmy Dugan

Surf’s up, I’m down and feeling good all over

I have loved the idea of surfing for decades. I’ve romanced it in my thoughts even though in practice the actual experience involves something far more consistent with drowning.

I have never once called myself “a surfer.” But I EFFin love surfing.

So I was stoked to make arrangements to go surfing recently. I knew I’d suck. But sucking does nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for surfing.

I got up at the crack of down and was soon prying myself into a wetsuit while listening to the waves crash on the beach. Nothing big, but they were nice pretty rolling waves that made my heartbeat rise. The surf was up, which meant soon I’m be down, rolling around, crashing around in my humility. It thrilled me.

I pondered all of this floating out on my board among far more proficient surfers. They sat up  straight and still looking out for the next great set, while I wobbled and waded like a dysfunctional Weeble. I looked across the dotted landscape of surfers knowing full well I was the worst one out there. Three guys who counted two hundred years of age between them surfed by me with ease, like artists of the ocean.

But sucking didn’t bother me.

Normally I mind sucking. I mind it a lot. I mind it enough to stop doing what I suck at or work very hard to stop sucking.

Surfing has never been convenient enough for me to practice much. The gaps between outings relegate me to learning and re-learning the same stuff. And surfing’s hard. I’ve done most sports and done many of them well enough not to suck. But this is one that humbles me. The ocean can do that to you.

Remember that line from Forgetting Sarah Marshall when Paul Rudd plays a surf instructor who keeps saying, “Do less. Jump up. Do less…less, well more than that. Jump up. Do less…”? Well, that’s surfing. Somehow you have to do less and do it so well that you can succeed at something that takes an incredible amount of energy, grace and courage. I suspect that’s why I love it. It’s hard.

As the sage Jimmy Dugan says, “It’s the hard that makes it great. If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

So, I didn’t worry too much about my general sucky-ness. Instead I embraced the present moment. I practiced stillness and tried to relax. When I positioned for my wave I tried to deepen my effort with less frenetic energy. When I paddled out I tried to even my breathing despite the enormous effort required. When I crashed (most every time) I tried to roll with the turbulence rather than panic.

I even stood up, sort of, a couple of times.

In between sets as I weebled and wobbled, my new BFF/surf coach and I talked about God, work, vocation and disappointment. We talked about stuff, the real stuff, the stuff that makes life a life. We had just met in person after weeks of getting to know each other online. I felt like I known him for a long time.

This is the stuff, I thought often, of both the conversation and the experience.  All too often I get so wrapped up in trying to find my life, I forget I’m living it. I get bogged down in the muddle and forget that the muddle is the life. So I remind myself often, this is the stuff. This is my life.

I needed this morning in the water flailing about. It turned into one of those hoof-to-head type of days that restore my sanity. Even as I wobbled trying to stand in the roaring tide of the surf, I felt the joy of needed balance coming back to me.

Sitting on a surf board in the Pacific Ocean challenged me physically, energized me mentally, nurtured me spiritually and well, it was just … bitchen.  Something about it.

But it was also something about me. Coming up on six years sober after a twenty-year dance of destruction with alcohol, I am well aware of how much more expansive life is these days. It’s full even in the struggle, rich even in the poverty, blessed even in the suffering. It’s surfing even in the near drowning.

I do all sorts of things I suck at simply to experience them, things I would have never taken the time to do, or had the interest to do, or been humble enough to do back in the ambitious, flawed days in my addiction.

Somehow in all of this I learned to accept what I suck at, which enhances the embrace of those moments when I don’t suck, those ah-ha moments when I say to myself, “I’m an EFFin Artist, man!”

Someday soon I’ll hit that moment on a surf board when I say, “I’m an EFFFIN SURFER, Brah!” and that will be … beyond bitchen. Until then I’ll keep practicing because when I do I feel better, from my toes to my bald head and everywhere in between.

Sucking never felt so good.

Emotional hangover of #SFWC2015 gives way to resolve

Toward the end of a brilliant 2015 San Francisco Writers Conference conference organizer Michael Larsen asked the classroom of participants how many aspired to be published by one of the big five New York publishers. Perched in the very back I raised my hand reflexively.

“One?” Larsen asked his eyes sweeping the room. “Really? That’s it?”

Of course that wasn’t it, but no other hands shot up. Had the same question been asked at the start of the conference every hand would have shot up. But a jammed packed four days with a collection of literary talent that makes this conference unrivaled on the West Coast had so overloaded the participants with information, the reaction time just wasn’t there. I heard from several that at times all the information, some of which often conflicted, created confusion in what had surely been resolve at the conference’s outset.

Which, I suspect, is exactly the point. As Larsen said more than once, “If something can stop you from writing, let it… But if nothing can then don’t ever stop.”

Or as many agents and editors said time and again, there is no blueprint to success. Every agent and publisher has preferences and quirks and a certain level of fatigue with the sheer volume of writers desperate to get their book sold. For every serious, well-prepared, excellent proposal, another gaggle bordering on idiocy are also shoved in front of those who sell books. Having been both the prepared and the idiot, I can commiserate.

The industry is not for the faint of heart. I return as I do so often to my wise sage, Jimmy Dugan of A League of Their Own  who said, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy anyone could do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

Throughout the conference agents, editors and experts in the field told writers to harness their expectations. If your only goal is to be the next John Grisham it might make any hope of actually doing that impossible. Agents often cautioned writers to find better comparisons than every best seller in your genre. Be realistic, they said, because this is a hard, hard business to succeed in and your up against a huge pool of talent all trying to get what you want.

I was a spectator at the conference. I was there to help, not pitch my books. Michael Larsen had awarded me a scholarship to the San Francisco Writers For Change conference last fall, so I volunteered to be his aide for the entire conference as a way of saying thanks. So even though I too felt my emotions riding the highs and lows of being close to those agents who could simply slide a contract across the table and help green-light my dreams, I could temper it a bit by knowing this was not my time. Throughout the weekend I felt great empathy — and not an insignificant amount of envy — for those grabbing a bat and swinging for the fences to make their dreams come true.

At one point as I listened to a panel of 15 agents, I realized I had already been turned down by half of them. During the conference I received in my e-mail yet another turn down from an agent I pitched a few weeks ago. I took those as signposts leading me on through the fog. Somewhere through this process the fit will come. I started learning more about the other agents on the panel who hadn’t had the privilege of turning me down yet. “Your time will come soon,” I thought, taking notes about them.

With so much to learn, so much to sift through and so many obvious challenges for writers to overcome — as if sitting down and writing a book isn’t difficult enough–I came away with something a bit deeper than just knowledge.

  • I learned to embrace the now. If you spend your whole life looking ahead to the perfect agent, the perfect publisher, the big success, you miss the real reason most of us write: to hone our craft and express our art.
  • I learned to trust defend my conviction, not my book. It sounds strange but even while making my living as a professional writer, I have wanted nothing more than to write books. I will always endeavor to that end. But the vast majority of pages I’ve written will never be read and the books I write will shape-shift and evolve through edits, revisions, title changes, development and (hopefully) evolving skill. I embrace this evolution even while knowing I’ll always be the first one to shoot up my hand when asked if I want (expect is a better word) to be sold to a big five publisher in New York. That is my conviction. My work is my conviction. But the specific projects will continue to evolve and improve.
  • I learned to ignore discouragement. Life is hard. Being successful at any one thing is hard. Critics and naysayers surround writers like Gen. Santa Ana at the Alamo. I have a pile of declines from agents, publishers, editors for various projects that could drown me if tied to my ankle and dropped with me in the San Francisco Bay. It doesn’t matter. All I need is one: one agent who believes in me, one publisher who takes a chance on me, one moment that launches me. Until those parts come together in divine harmony, I will ignore the discouragement and continue to do what I love: Write.
  • Most importantly I learned that I will continue to work on all the various aspects of publishing like platform, and proposals and brand, but nothing matters more than pages of a story that excel. This is my first and foremost goal, passion and focus: a story well told.

The San Francisco Writers Conference was memorable for me because I came away something deeper than knowledge. I came away with resolve.

All Time Red Sox Lineup: Celebrating baseball, lists and opening day

Opening day was so great this year I have to keep it rolling one more day… hell, it may roll all week! But in true celebration, I’m taking the day off watching baseball and taking the Bride to a nearby authentic mill that grinds its own flour among other things (yes, you can expect a post soon, once this baseball euphoria passes).

Baseball and lists and opening day(s) all swirl in my mind’s sky like the purples, pinks and oranges of a perfect sunset.

And for a bonus list of the many I keep in my mind related to baseball, I give you the All-time team that would play in Heaven’s baseball game against the Yankees in Fenway Park (The Yanks lose every game in Heaven). Compare mine to the fans ballot here.

My All-Time Red Sox lineup:

  • 1) Tris Speaker, CF (but my heart belongs to Dom DiMaggio, SF-born Italian, brilliant mind, great person and wonderful CF).
  • 2) Bobby Doerr, 2B, Hall of Famer gets the nod over all-time gamer, Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia makes the team as our utility guy.


  • 3) Ted Williams, RF- Moved him to right, because let’s face it, his defense sucks everywhere. But gotta love his bat. He’s the one sour apple in our clubhouse. But I recall a quote of his as a manager of the Washington Senators. When asked about pitching, he stalled and stammered and then said, “Fuck it. Let’s hit.”


  • 4) Yaz, Lf. The best in left off the monster ever. The best in the clutch ever (even you Mr. Ortiz). A true great. I bet he’d beat Ted Williams’ ass every now again, too (and Pedroia probably helped).
  • 5) David Ortiz, DH- When you are given a plaque by management calling you the greatest clutch Red Sox hitter ever, (it’s not accurate, see above) but it’s saying something. When you almost single-hand-idly break the eighty-year old curse with clutch game-winners over the Yankees, well… carve the statue.
  • 6) Jimme Foxx, 1b- Gotta have a life of the party, and besides, Jimmy Dugan was based on his life, so this our EFFin Artist favorite on the team by association.


  • 7)Jimmy Collins, 3b- This is a tough one. I bet Doerr could have played here and then I’d put Pedroia in. Hell, I know Pedroia would play there. But neither did. So I’m inclined to simply take one of my all-time favorites, Kevin Youkilis. Because fans in heaven want to scream YOUK… But Collins was a hall of famer, so… Oh yeah, and no, I didn’t forget Wade Boggs. When he rode that GD#(#$% Horse around Yankee stadium in pinstripes, he was dead to me. Which is also why you won’t find Roger Clemens (double whammy with the steroid thing) on this list or Johnny Damon (loved him.. damnit). But you will find Babe Ruth, because he was ours first AND he was sold, not swooned.
  • 8) Jason Varitek, C- The Captain was such a great backstop and leader he’d be the captain in heaven too. He’s a man.


Let’s face it, you have to have this happen over and over in Heaven. It’ll never grow old. NOW, I KNOW, I know,… Carlton Fisk. Game 6 alone should make him a roster spot. But I’m going with Varitek. Fisk lost game 7. Varitek won two championships. Varitek finished his career with the Sox. Fisk left (though I blame management). You need two catchers, I’ll take both.

  • 9) Johnny Pesky, SS- Nomar was better, but I suspect steroids, AND I hated his prima dona attitude. Pesky was a baller. Plus he has his own pole in the stadium, so he’d have to play in heaven.
  • Starters: My Ace is Pedro. Plain and simple. Until that unfortunate taunt of drilling the Babe’s ass, he was the best of his era by far. Babe Ruth (and then you get his bat too, and he can take Foxx out on the town each night, fun for all Boston!)

The Babe

  • Lefty Grove, Cy Young, Smokey Joe Wood (with apologies to Mel Parnell).
  • Closer: Give me Pap man. He was ungodly before he left. And he didn’t go to the Yanks. Who doesn’t want to see this at the end of every game?


  • Manager: Terry Francona. Two world series. End of story. Management did him wrong. Sad. I love that he’s doing it again in Cleveland. A prophet is never honored in his own town.

There it is. Let the games begin. And the arguments I hope. Red Sox fans, chime in below. Who is on your team?

I’ll save my Giants all-time team for a later day.

News from The Test Kitchen: Juiced up

In today’s age of debating everything, I mean everything, I found a topic that while it can still stir the pot really doesn’t have fierce opposition.

The statement: I need to eat more vegetables.

Nobody in the right mind would really argue this as vegetables have no down side. The totally bankrupt idea of the government’s food pyramid agrees few people in our country eat enough vegetables. Vegetarians are with me, without a doubt, “Can I get an Amen, Sister?!” Fadish Paleo-ites still value whole vegetables with all their carnivorous chowing down. Moms love this as “Eat your vegetables!” (did you ever notice how Mom didn’t eat a lot of vegetables and she never told Dad to eat his even though he mostly ignored them?) remains standard dinner conversation.

We all agree we need to eat more vegetables.

So the simple deduction is we must not like vegetables very much if we have such a universal under-consumption of them.

Not so fast (stay with me my veggie friends). What we really don’t like is the godawful way a lot vegetables are prepared, relegated for decades to the corners (side dish) of our plates, served in routinely bland after-thought methods, and often terribly over-cooked into some type of disgusting mash.

Also, compared to addictive, processed food, loaded with sugars, additives and salt that send our brain centers zipping around like a tweaker looking for the next high, veggies are too tame to garner much attention.

Thankfully, I’m rethinking this. I go back to the simple philosophy of Michael Pollan, who urged people to move proteins to the side dish and plant-based foods to the main course.

Suddenly vegetables never looked (smelled, tasted, made you feel) so good.

Even so, with vegetables crowding out our plates on most meals, I knew I could benefit from more vegetables in my diet. I studied up on the benefits of massive-nutrition levels from large quantities of vegetable consumption (Do I hear a Wheat and Chaff coming soon Joel Furhman? Can I get an Amen Brother?!) and wanted more.

The next logical step was juicing, which brings us (“at long last you wordy SOB,” you think to yourself) this week’s test kitchen: Juicing.

Doesn’t quite have the drumroll-effect of “CRONUTS!” does it? I know… but it sure does have a far better health effect.

So let’s first dispense with the problems of juicing that in my reading and experimenting I discovered are all-too-often whitewashed while proponents (I’m looking at you my veggie friends… fess up…) rush to sing about the merits. If juicing was so easy… say it with me now… “Everybody would do it!” (thank you Jimmy Dugan).

The problems:

  • Juicing is messy to make
  • Veggie juices don’t always taste too great, certainly compared to fruit juices and smoothies
  • Clean up is a pain in the arse
  • It’s expensive

True or false?

Sadly, true. All true, as we discovered in the Test Kitchen.


Each is manageable and I’m here to tell you how. Can I get an Amen?

Amen! (Sometimes a preacher has to help out his own cause especially when 800 words in to a 400-word blog no readers are left to shout with me… sigh). The pitfalls are real, but with some planning they are manageable and worth it. Consuming these glasses of nutrition-loaded health bombs are very, very worth it and virtually immediately noticeable from a health perspective.

In the Test Kitchen this week we started with a basic idea of juicing the shit out of a bunch of stuff and seeing how it would taste.  So I took some beets, some carrots, some celery, some kale and tossed in some grapefruits and apples and even a whole fresh pineapple for flavor (and for the fun of breaking that bad boy down) and made a concoction.

It was… earthy. The Bride smelled it and tasted it and said (with 60% approval and 40% nose curling distaste) “It smells like a garden.” Translation: Dirt.

I realized the beets were both very, very strong and not so very clean. So for all future recipes be careful with the beets — they make a lot of juice, whereas kale, while strong, makes next to nothing — and go ahead and peel them, because their skin adds a lot of dirt.

The good news is my concoction worked. We used it in smoothies with plain yogurt and protein powder to make the healthiest, lowest-sugar content smoothies I’ve ever made and they tasted good. Not great, but good. We used all the juice.


So the next step, now that I discovered both how the juicer would work and what to expect was to look for some actual recipes.

Frankly, I was disappointed. I read through a book on juicing and the recipes mostly took a couple of vegetables, tossed them in and said, “drink this and like it.” I felt the same rising anger I once did as a kid stuck alone at the dinner table unable to get up until I ate my vegetables. Surely if you’re producing a book on the merit of juicing it’s not too much to ask to put some thought and care into the actual taste of the drinks?

Unfortunately online really wasn’t much better. After a couple of hours I thought to myself, “ATTENTION MUST BE PAID!”

I resolved to craft some specific, planned, tried and tested, tasty juice recipes.

Then I stumbled on a “copycat” version of V-8.

I love V-8. I’m constantly thinking (bop to the head) “I should have had a V-8!”

So another trip to the store for another (expensive, more on that soon) grocery purchase and I was back in the test kitchen making my copycat V-8 juice from what appeared to be a very specific, very thought-out recipe.

It looked a little pale to me as I served it to my taste-testing Bride. She winced as she drank it.

“My god that’s spicy,” she said.

I took a drink and suddenly felt triggered for a Bloody Mary with a Mimosa chaser. Can I hear a “Grey Goose!?” Uh… no. Those days are gone. Sigh.

Vegetable juices should not make me want to relapse.

I blame myself because I have never… not once… found a copycat recipe that actually taste’s like the original dating back to the days when copycats swore they could bake like Mrs. Fields.

I ended up going back to the store for more tomatoes and ended up with a HUGE pitcher of still very strong (it’s the onion… way too much onion) and now only marginally tasty.


So, the test kitchen continued (and I’m still slamming those virgin Bloody Mary’s like a frat boy with Jaigermeister on Friday night, because I’ll be damned if all that produce is going to waste).

Let’s talk briefly about the mess.


Juice flies everywhere! I even got some on a cabinet about two feet above my head. Don’t ask me how. I figured out that like Jimmy Dugan who perhaps chastised too vehemently, I perhaps, shoved the veggies through the grinder too aggressively, causing the juice to spray too powerfully into a mess on my counter.

Over time I got a feel for it and it’s not too bad. It’s messy, make no mistake, but it’s not mopping the ceiling messy.

The cleanup of the machine itself take a few minutes. It’s not bad on a Sunday when I make juice for the week, but this whole idea of getting up and bada bing fresh juice and off to work is poppycock. I can’t see anyone wanting to mess with this when in a hurry and before their morning coffee:


But in the scheme of things, the parts come apart pretty easily, they clean up quick enough and it’s really not out of the ordinary of a typical kitchen mess. So don’t let the mess scare you off, just plan when you want to make your juice.

As for the expense… vegetables cost more than processed shit. It’s just the way it is in our industrialized food economy that is bent on making you fat and killing you. If you want to fight back, stay healthy and eat right, it’s going to cost more. So I’m tackling this two ways:

I’ll buy into a CSA that will bring me a box of local produce regularly that I can budget into my monthly expense. I love the farmers market and will still go, but knowing a box of stuff picked for me will expand both my cooking and my juicing experiments, pump those vegetables into my system and support local farmers.

Also, I’m adding even more to my garden this year. If I can offset the costs with my very inexpensively grown produce and even learn to can these juices for winter then my produce bill will decline dramatically over time. It’s not unlike my steer “Dinner” who cost a bundle up front but has been so wonderful to both eat and to see the impact on my food budget over time that I’ll never go without a wonderfully locally raised steer in my freezer, God Willing.

And FINALLY, (hey.. that Amen was uncalled for buster!) let’s deal with the most important part of this whole exercise: taste. This stuff should (and soon will) taste EFFin DELICIOUS. IT should not and will not be for long “Ok.” The ingredients are fresh and pure and the healthiest things on the planet you can eat. They are colorful and exotic. It’s everything a true culinary artist should enjoy playing with.

So… once my first shipment of CSA produce arrives I’m going to do another Test Kitchen dedicated to recipes. And I have a simple plan you can do yourself right now if you are motivated: Mix all the various juices separately and then slowly combine in various amounts and combinations to find the most flavorful balance. Then add in the spices and flavors — a dash of this, a splash of that — until Effin Artistry of Juice results.

Sounds fun huh?

At long last, EFFin ARTIST is… out!

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Artists celebrated in gold for painting across the big screen

Oscar Night is here, tomorrow night, and I’m really excited. I explained our weird, vicarious night of glamour before, along with the first reviews of movies my husband and I had seen. Now we’ve finished viewing the final movie during our extended Oscar nominated viewing party. Philomena brought  an end to our viewing parties.

Alas, all good things must come to an end; the ultimate party signifies the finality of it all. We’ve got a great menu planned. I’ll be locked in by the time the stars hit the red carpet on the E channel, and I’m thrilled Ellen is hosting. (Effin Artist: I like Ellen too. What’s not to like. I’ve seen her show like 20 times and she makes me smile all 20 times. That’s an art in this cynical day and age, believe me).

All in all, a good year for Oscar nominated features. (EA: Good but not great. Better than ‘The Artist’ year, but pales to Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, Bennie Button, Frost/Nixon, et. al THAT was a great year). Our Oscar ballots are in. Here are my winners. IN MY HUMBLE OPINION (Effin Artist: Let’s not kid ourselves, when it comes to skin care, ’80s trivia, music and Oscar movies, the Bride is anything but humble. Mine are duly noted as well so their will be no doubt come Monday who won… just saying…):


Best Picture: 

  • The Bride: will win: 12 years a slave; should win: 12 years a slave
  • EA: will win: Gravity; should win: American Hustle

Best Director

  • The Bride: will win: Steve McQueen; should win: David O Russell
  • EA: will win: Alfonso Cuaron; should win: David O Russell (if twice in two years you get all four of your top actors nominated, you’re the best director… hands down).

Best Actor

  • The Bride: will win: Matthew McConaughey; should win: Chiwetel Ejiofor
  • EA: will win: Matthew McConaughey;  should win: Leonardo DiCaprio, (but really Jimmy Dugan for Captain Phillips. He got robbed. Did you see him in this movie? Academy??? Hello???)

Best Actress

  • The Bride: will win: Cate Blanchett; should win: Cate Blanchett or Meryl Streep (I know..I know, I should pick one or the other, but I can’t here. They were both amazing in their roles…IMHO!)
  • EA: will win: Amy Adams;  should win: Meryl Streep (this woman is a legend… just amazing)

Best Supporting Actor

  • The Bride: will win: Jared Leto; should win: Jared Leto
  • EA: no contest, Leto (though Jonah Hill deserves a surprising honorable mention).

Best Supporting Actress

  • The Bride: will win:  Lupita N’yong’o; should win: Jennifer Lawrence
  • EA: Lawrence both

Best Original Screenplay

  • The Bride: will win: Her; should win: Her
  • EA: will win:  American Hustle; should win: American Hustle (See above about all four top actors. It’s great, truly artistic writing to have such compelling characters). 

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • The Bride: will win: 12 Years a slave; should win: The Wolf of Wall Street
  • EA: will win: 12 years a slave; should win: Philomena

Best Animated

  • The Bride: will win: Frozen; should win: Frozen
  • EA: Yeah, is there anyone else nominated?

Normally I don’t subscribe to the elitism that exists in Hollywood. I prefer less complicated, non-fussy ways to live my life, But one night a year, I allow myself the indulgence, and I admit I go overboard. I watch the red carpet arrivals and strain to view every last detail of the star (hoof to head as the hubby says … EA: I don’t think it really applies in this context dear…). I want to see the mani-cam, and I want the full 360 turn to view every angle of the gown. I want to know which stars Rachel Zoe styled this year.

Okay, you got me…this is my dirty little secret (really not much of a secret… we all know this about you. Come to the light!). Am I ashamed? You think I would be but I’m not. I allow this in my life for one day because I know after all of the awards have been given out, the red carpets rolled up and taken away I will wake up just a little more thankful for where I’m at in my life. Maybe I don’t walk the red carpet in Hollywood, but my husband rolls out the red carpet for me in many ways through out the day.

Be thankful for what you have in your life, embrace it all and if you indulge now and again in whatever you deem extraordinary don’t be ashamed of it. More than likely you deserve it.

If you wish to indulge a guilty pleasure, submit your favorite picks in the reply screen below! (Yeah, call your shot now. Monday, any “I knew it!” will be thoroughly mocked if not).

And if you missed this year’s nominated movies, well, plan ahead next time. We’ll be back again next year, that’s for sure!

Who will play me in the movie?

When celebrities die, The Bride takes it very personally. This is in part because of her deep empathy. She feels things. But it’s also her interest in the cult of celebrity that goes back to our teen-age years of the 1980s. Break out the 1980s trivial pursuit and she will bust anyone upside the head. She’s got mad skills.

So it’s not surprising the other day that our son texted The Bride when he heard the news of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose. They shared shock and sadness and bonded over the common love of movies. Then my son texted, “Who are we gonna get to play Dad in the movies now?”

My family likes to joke about the movie of my life. It’s part of the life I lived I guess, sort of like the old “you’ll laugh about this someday.” The movie thing is the laugh long after the pain.

But I have to admit, I’ve thought about who will play us in the movie. Sarah Jessica Parker is a lock for the bride, I think. But me, it’s always been more of a debate. I have to admit I was taken aback by the Hoffman comparison. I loved this acting too, but me? No. Pass! Next please!

I’ve always envisioned more of a Mark Ruffalo type — the whole indy vibe and the shared ideals, the similarities in a strain of cooled rebellion that I suspect runs in his veins as well. He seems like a good fit (assuming Brad Pitt and George Clooney pass first. I’d kill to have Pitt’s production company Plan B option one of my scripts. Just plain old sell my soul to the devil…). But apparently my son and I see me very, very differently. On what sphere to do these two seem likely to be considered for the same role?

Hoffman Ruffalo

I think I’m a little hurt. At least he could have said Jimmy Dugan even though he’s a bit old these days.

 Ok, confession time. I am not alone in this self-indulgent musing. You’ve considered it, at least one… right? Who WOULD play YOU in the movie of your life? Post it below. Come clean. You’ll enjoy a good laugh.

The process of recovery is recognizing the Tasmanian Devil swath of destruction we carve through our lives. We swirl up a lot of loved ones in the process. Only when we stop spinning and grinning from our devilish actions, we look around and have a choice. Keep spinning or stop and find a new way.

For Hoffman, the heroin was too much. After two decades of sobriety he relapsed and this time he couldn’t shake it. He died with a needle in his arm.

That struck home with me. I was in rehab with a lot of heroin addicts. I liked them a lot. Alcohol and heroin addicts share a lot in common. But the one thing they all talked about is the poor success rate for recovery among heroin addicts. It is horribly low. Hoffman is just another example of the terrible toil addiction takes.

So it’s not the worst person to play me after all… because I live with the reality that by God’s grace I broke free from addiction and found a different way. But like Hoffman, you can’t ever think you’ve got it licked. Not even twenty years later. Not ever. The cost is simply too great.

Respect must be paid: The best of Jimmy Dugan

We are deep into our Oscar viewing leading up to the Big Gold Statue Night, which is right up there with the Super Bowl (especially with my 49ers, again, a play short… they were never short under Sourdough Joe… sigh) Columbus Day and The Fourth of July as the most underrated holiday celebrations (I sense a new list coming).

As The Bride explained, The Big Gold Statue Night is a must on the calendar. It has as much lead up, preparation and planning (I mean you have to watch the movies!) as the lead up to  Christmas.

This year I’d like to see a Effin Artist lifetime achievement award to the greatest actor of our generation, Jimmy Dugan. What other great baseball player and championship women’s league manager, could also win back-to-back Oscars for best actor?!

Now Sean Penn has to be in the conversation of true Effin Artistry, with a range from Harvey Milk to Sam to Jeff Spiccoli. He’s number two. And as for the Daniel Day-Lewis sycophants, he is on the list, but he doesn’t make the final cut. He acts in rolls tailor-made for Oscars. But where’s the humor? Where’s the surprises? No, he may lead the Oscar awards, but he doesn’t match Jimmy Dugan.

Jimmy Dugan is our generation’s sage. Who else could come up with such dynamic wisdom as both:


Brilliant. Just brilliant. I’m rendered speechless by Jimmy Dugan. I assume he spoke a bit weird (as shown in this clip) later in life because of all the alcohol.

If that wasn’t enough Jimmy Dugan was also a war hero:

And the work on this movie was so far ahead of its time it still seems current. At the very least it shows how far we’ve come as a society in just twenty years.

And if you’re still not convinced, just allow two packed minutes of simple comedic artistry wash over you:

Amazing stuff! I can’t chronicle all the wisdom here… but where else would you get,

“Perhaps you chastised her too vehemently…”

“Did anyone tell you you look like a penis with a little hat on it.”


Genuis. Jimmy Dugan, a man for the ages and first winner of the Effin Artist Lifetime Achievement Award.

Add ice cream to the DIY list

I am reasonably sure that most creative people have tried to make ice cream at home. When they do, they find they love it. But they also find it lacks that texture and consistency, that “quality,” that comes when you pry open a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.

When we get right down to it, it’s hard to make ice cream. At least it seems that way as compared to opening the freezer, grabbing a spoon and prying off the top of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.

But like all things that are worth it… you’ve heard this before… say it with me now… “It’s the hard that makes it great!” (A bow of deference to the great Jimmy Dugan).

It’s not really hard per se. (what does per se actually mean, I wonder…) It’s that it takes practice. There it is again… roll the tape: I’m talkin about practice, man. Practice.” If you try it a few times and fiddle with it a bit, it is perfectly reasonable to never, ever buy ice cream again.

I didn’t realize this until a confluence of two thoughts made their way through the labyrinth of my brain this week. The first was an earlier post when I listed off the things I won’t buy any longer: Sauce, Salsa, Peanut Butter. Then as The Bride and I made our grocery list with her talking and me hardly paying attention, she said “Ice cream… uh no… you like to make your own ice-cream don’t you?”

About ten seconds later her words finished the cerebral cortex gauntlet and I said, “Yes. Uh No. No ice-cream. I’ll make it. Yes.”

The Bride was long gone on this thought and kept right along with her list, but I fermented a bit. Add Ice-cream to the list of things I’ll never buy again? Perhaps. Because finally, I realized, my creations lack nothing I get when I pry off a lid of Ben and Jerry’s.  In fact, the best recipes I have come from the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Cookbook, so I’m really not missing out. Over the years I tweaked the recipes to perfect them. The last batch I made — with Effin Artist Peanut Butter I might add — was, well, I’d say the batch was … evolved.

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That’s how I’d say it, EVOLVED. It kept well for several days, tasted like fresh peanut butter (served over Effin Artist Brownie) and when finished had that grainy, creamy texture, that “quality” homemade ice cream used to lack.

It was one of those Effin Artist moments, indeed.

So knowing my love for lists, ice cream is now on the Things-I-won’t-buy list for good.

Here’s where the real ding went off in my head. It wasn’t hard anymore. Through practice, I have worked out the recipe to realize that it isn’t that hard at all.

Sort of life like when you get down to it. As M. Scott Peck wrote, “Life is difficult.

“This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. This is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.  Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Just like ice cream.

Cyber recipes come up short compared to grandmothers

Dough is my thing. The more I mess with it the more I am enthralled by it. I have painfully neglected my pursuit of chocolate art this last month at least in part because I keep circling back to dough.

But like chocolate, I have a lot of hits and a lot of misses when it comes to dough. That “something,” that fine line between a great dough and a blob, is what keeps me coming back (not to mention the eats afterward– even the blobs taste pretty OK).

In all my kneading I learned something vitally important: All those helpful hints and videos and pins and such don’t do justice to the art of truly creating beautiful food, especially things that require a veteran touch like dough.

I realized this when my dough pursuits wandered off the familiar territory of my Italian heritage and explored working with Hispanic dough’s — tamales and tortillas.

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The methods are similar. Dough is dough at “the root of the root” as the poet said. But the finished product proved to me I have a lot to learn. Second and third tries taught me it wasn’t a measurement or a better recipe, but the deft art of know how. I have it working with things my grandmother taught me. I don’t have it — yet — with things I’d have learned if Nonie was my Abuela.

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We never made tamales when I was a kid. I lack the expertise, the hands-on experience with a true expert who made them so often she didn’t even realize how exceptional they were. Grandmothers cooked in a different time, long before such things made them celebrities. They made food so we could eat and seeing us enjoy it was all the star-power they needed. Nonie made us sauce and ravioli and apple rings and fried bread, things I make with a confidence that comes from seeing her, watching her and eating her creations.

I didn’t have that training with tamales and tortillas and frankly the results prove it.

Don’t get me wrong. I had fun and the product of my labor still ended up getting consumed.

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But the artistry remains elusive, which when you come to think about it, is thrilling! If the art of truly cultural food could be captured in a five-minute YouTube, would it be special?

Remember our favorite sage Jimmy Dugan (“that’s good advice!”) who sums up Effin Artistry when he said: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everybody would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

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It is the hard that makes it great. I want to discover the great as if I had an Abuela to teach me.

Back to the masa grind stone.

News From The Test Kitchen: Cronuts

The other day I was minding my own business, considering my Test Kitchen ideas. I wondered if those on my Hotel California Email about the Test Kitchen were now getting politely annoyed and were about to have one of those things when I show up and everyone is sitting around staring at me awkwardly when someone says “we need to talk.” You know, one of those kind of things. Ugh.

But to my surprise, an unlikely participant on the Email chain– my son’s wife-to-be who is just too nice to tell me to bang off, but doesn’t respond much to the banter — chimed in with an idea for the next Test Kitchen.

“Cronuts. Google it. Embrace it,” she wrote.

I had no friggin idea what it was. I figured it was like the Acai berry or some such thing that mucky mucks were now making. I wasn’t that interested. But I love soon-to-be-daughter-in-law so I did as she asked and Googled it, while the email chain went its merry way without me.

Shocker alert: The Cronut is without a doubt the very best idea that has surfaced in the test kitchen since Italian Wool Shearing, and that doesn’t really count because it was not.. I swear it… NOT conducted in the kitchen.

At first I hated the idea because of this guy:


What a freakin snob this guy is. $5 bucks and a waiting list. Trademarked the name, gets all in a hubabaloo over others making it and rumor has it is vying for a new show called “Cronut Nazi” starring Jerry Seinfeld (ok, I’ll confess, I made that last one up).

I thought no way. EFFin Artist don’t do elitist bullslather. (Note to self, add that to the list: Effin Artist don’t do list: Selfies, ESP, and Elitist Bullslather… to be cont., because Effin Artist does do LISTS… We love love lists– read about them in fact in about oh…22 hours at effinartists.com. Commercial now over!).

ANYWAY, I was about to reject the idea out of hand UNTIL… I thought about the neanderthal ideas from the male readership of this email chain to the idea of Cronuts.

For those not on the email chain, let me derisively fill you in on this memorable input:

“I’m thinking that it is New Years and time for thinking healthy. Instead of the Cronut, how about quinoa!”

“Oohh the cronut sounds amazing but so does quinoa and since I gained 900lbs over the 2 holidays maybe you should stuff the cronut with quinoa so I dont feel guilty for eating it.”

“Now that is the originality worthy of an EFFin artist. Bravo.”

Quinoa and a Cronut? Bravo??? Seriously?!?! Guys… go back to the link above, read it, consider the absurdity of that idea and go lie down. For shame! It’s safe to say I know two people who WON’T be winning this week’s sweepstakes package. I mean, quinoa has all the artistry of a Beanie Baby. Just because people get all trendy with it doesn’t make it neato. It’s rice man. Really, that’s about it. Rice. Or Risotto for bad cooks. Sigh.. I can’t believe I’m explaining this. I must move on. It’s as arty as selfies when you get right down to it. (Add to the list: Quinoa)

AND that’s when I opened to the idea because once I delved a bit further, I realized EVERYONE is going to want to win this week’s sweepstakes because these things are — holy CRONUTS batman — incredible looking. I haven’t tasted them, but what’s not to love… a doughnut, a croissant, sugar, cream, frosting all gently elevating with yeast-like perfection together. Amazeballs!


SO I’m in. Let the research begin. The Test Kitchen is going to make Cronuts.

This led me to my new favorite WEBromance, a perfect cooking show type website minus all the snooty tooty rich and phooey. It’s called Sorted. And if you still don’t know what a Cronut is you have to watch this video right here:

Folks, lets face it… you already know the answer to that question you are thinking… yes… this will be on the test. And if you have ANY hope of winning the sweepstakes package of the week, you will, YOU WILL have to pass the test. Should I pause here whilst you all double back and watch my new favorite webromance video???

I thought so. go ahead. I’ll wait…………..

Send me your favorite line from the video for extra credit. Mine was… no cheating, you tell me first…. Done yet?…. (fingers drumming…)

DIGRESSION: EFFin Artist isn’t surprised much. The time my nephew jumped in with the Jailhouse Ramen Sandwich in his dorm room maybe. My sister-in-law the Long Island Medium… that was cool. But as I waited for you all to go back and watch that truly wonderful video, I was SHOCKED when a new email arrived from said sister-in-law. And guess what she said:

“However, I … have gained the requisite 900 lbs. over the holidays, so, since I still consider this time zone to be the holidays, I say Cronut first then quinoa. Or, how about a quinoa Cronut!  Now, that would’ve something!!!!!”

(Effin Artist shakes his head… )

No dear… it wouldn’t be something. Stop with all the exclamation points. This dumb idea would be Lobster Tail drenched in Hotdog Chili Mac. You need to go sit over there with the boys this time dear and next time, THINK… think before you email. Once its out there, you can’t take it back. The gun can’t be unfired, the bell can’t be unrung, the lipstick can’t be wiped off the pig.

Sigh. She was my star student, or at least I thought. She’s an artist no less…a  REAL one, not an imposter like me. I .,.. i… I just sometimes wonder why I bother…

My dear daughter-in-law-to-be who came up with this idea, you can come right up here and sit at the front of class where the sister-in-law formerly known as Artist just vacated. CONCLUDE DIGRESSION:

SO now my brain is in overload. The snooty french guy with the Cronut trademark (CRONUT. CRONUT. CRONUT. CRONUT. CRONUT.  there I said, I’m posting it, and I’m making it, so take that frenchy. Sue me!? Yeah right, get in line. Good luck with that!)… Ooops… sorry… Deep breath… As I was saying, the snooty guy (Note to self: I had a lovely French blogger drop by the other day, and she was not at all snooty. So please be nice to the French. I’d hate to piss of one of my five readers) listed all the flavors he’s made.

“There is only one flavor of Cronut every month. Here are the flavors we’ve had: May – Rose Vanilla; June – Lemon Maple; July –  Blackberry Lime; August – Coconut; September –  Fig Mascarpone; October- Apple Creme Fraiche; November – Salted Dulce de Leche; December -Valrhona Chocolate Champagne. January 2014 will feature Peanut Butter Rum Caramel.”

Salted Dulce de Leche? My god! I owe him a slow clap because I can see why folks are lined up for these. Some great creations on that list. But, me being me, I have to create my OWN version that he hasn’t done yet. That will be aces! This is no small test kitchen here. This is GIANT TEST KITCHEN! Game on! This is SURVIVOR Test Kitchen!

Step up your game folks. The Cronut Test Kitchen Starts Sunday right after the 49ers make the Packers into a snowball and splat ’em.

I will test you on everything… so if you are not still reading… right down to HERE… you can go sit with the neanderthals and the artist this week. Believe it. Don’t be voted out of the kitchen. Just… don’t.

To unsubscribe… I got nothing for you. you can deal with it. I’m just not in the mood! And remember Jimmy Dugan… there’s no crying in baseball (or Effin Artistry either).