Dashboard Drumming & other Reminiscences.

I was nineteen and an evangelist for Billy Joel, certain that I was the only person in the world who had ever heard of him. I was determined to change that.

Freshly settled into my garage apartment, there was a plant on the windowsill and a chair in the corner. The primary décor though, was that blaster of a stereo. On my own, livin’ large, no Dad-man to TID me. (Turn-it-Down: that was a time before earbuds, you know.)

I suppose Billy Joel’s music must have come to me through the ionosphere or through some cosmic wave-bounces. I don’t know how else I would have heard of him. Oh sure, there was that Piano Man thing on the radio, but had anyone really listened to him? Really Listened? I’d ask, Have you heard of this guy named Billy Joel? Nah. Everyone had heard of Billy Jack, and Billy Bob, and Billy – our local home-town guitar-slinger.

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Billy Joel, not so much.

In our small town, you could count the number of young singles with their own apartments. I imagine somebody probably did. Like I said. Small town. I had my share of visitors, and – they paid the proselytizer’s price: I was going to make believers out of them with a fairly loud dose of Billy Joel’s album “Streetlife Serenade.”

You gotta hear this! I’d say, lowering the needle onto the record. And the piano started. There weren’t any more new Beatles records, but what came out of the speakers on this album had the Fab-Four’s mix of ballads and rockers and thought-provokers and tear-jerkers. Vocals and instrumentals. Harmonies. Lead guitar solos. Oh, yeah. Piano, too.

Wait, wait, I’d plead, when my guest would begin to fidget. This one other song… you’ve GOT to hear this one! I guess I figured to wear them down into liking it.

And so, that’s how I became the young single guy with his own apartment that no one visited anymore. (Kidding. It was a small town, after all. They just started bringing their own music with them.)

I subsequently ended my career as a Billy Joel Preacher. In truth, either BJ changed, or I did, because none of his later works seemed to knock me back in the way of Streetlife Serenade. He had plenty of big hits in the years to come, but – alas – he was forced to promote them on his own.

I was out on dragging friends in front of my stereo to hear him.

Put the album on this evening (I say that as though I placed a platter on a turntable. Nah. Streamed it. My old vinyl was pretty well worn.)

Turned it up. Then tweaked it up just a little big more, just in time for my air-drumsticks to knock down that roll before the third chorus with the perfect-piercing falsetto from a young Billy Joel.

That probably wasn’t my Dad telling me to turn it down, but I did anyway.

Once that last song was over.

(In case you’d like to hear it:

Ahhh, heck. There I go, getting all Billy Joel evangelistic…)

We’re on his list. A good one, thankfully.

A magazine mention!

It used to be the case that I would agree with that old axiom – all publicity is good publicity, as long as they spell the name right. In the post-H. Weinstein era that we live in, I’m not sure that adage is still on the mark.

But – as it is press coverage of a positive sort, and puts us in slightly exclusive company, I’m quite pleased to see us included in Scott Cherry’s list of the Tulsa area’s “Hidden Gems.”

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In the Tulsa World Magazine, Issue 13 – just out – Mr Cherry says “In a metro area the size of Tulsa, most everyone likes to frequent what could be described as hidden gems – restaurants with loyal followings that largely go unnoticed by the majority of diners.”

While I hate to think of our place as “unnoticed,” I recognize that we don’t have a large following like the big-boy restaurants. Give that we have only two employees – Dustin and me – it’s probably a good thing we don’t have a hundreds of folks lining up at lunchtime.

Even I had to admit that many of the other restaurants named in the article were previously unknown to me. (Although it isn’t surprising, given that I don’t get out all that often…)

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It was nice of Mr Cherry to include us in his list, and I’m proud to be among his ten favorite “hidden gems” in the Tulsa area. If you missed his list, here is a link to the slideshow.

Hidden Gems:
Tulsa World

It should be said that Scott’s columns have quite a following and even the mention in his list has resulted in several phone calls and lunchtime first-timers.

Judging from the photographs that were included in the article, there are some some pretty dishes being prepared out there, and – obviously – some pretty tasting offerings that are under-the-radar. And – like our lunchtime service – it appears many on the list are the product of owner-chefs and relatively small staffs.

Knowing what a tough business the food industry is, I’m was pleased to see that there are some real veterans out there, like LaRoma on South Sheridan in Tulsa. Thirty-plus years!

We’re in our twelfth year on Main Street in Broken Arrow, offering lunches for about half that time. I’ve worked some really, really busy places, cranking out food – and I have to say there are some positive aspects of being a “hidden gem.”

Particularly at washing dishes time.

Come visit!

Vintage car now. Wasn’t back then.

My father had me on his lap with his hand around mine, showing me how to shift through the gears. Three-on-the-tree, or whatever they called those old steering column shifters. It’s the earliest model car I remember our family owning.

1948 Plymouth.

“Maybe you’ll be driving this one of these days,” said my father. “Maybe pigs will fly,” I answered. (Just kidding.)

Back then I thought it was a possibility. Heck, maybe a certainty. I remember several times giving it the car-buyer-once-over. Checking out that sailing ship emblem on the trunk badge, exploring the curved lower door that was almost a running board. A moveable spotlight on the front fender with the grip and switch near the steering wheel. (Not one in the image, but WE sure had one!) Fine stuff. A visor-awning over the windshield. Light-up radio. Little chrome horn bar.

Yeah. All mine. One of these days.

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Man, what a beast. As you can tell, I’m driving down memory lane today. As a Craigslist browsing regular, I ran across a picture of a wreck of a Plymouth (project car, as it was described) that will – in all likelihood – remain a wreck until gravity pulls it into the earth’s crust.

It made me think about that old blue cruiser that used to sit in our driveway, though.

The whole car thing was an adventure. It belonged to my Uncle Maury and Aunt Evelyn, and they must have bought a new car, because – next thing I know – I’m riding on the train with my father to Wichita. One of the few times in my life I rode a passenger train. We’re going there to get a car and drive it back home.

I must have been pretty overwhelmed by the whole experience (I was just a little kid, easily overwhelmed…) because the next thing I recall about the journey was driving for hours and then pulling into my Great-Aunt Eva’s driveway. As he shut off the engine he explained to me that we were just there for a pit stop.

“Hello, hello!” said my father to Aunt Eva, who was smiling in the doorway, obviously not expecting us. “Can’t stay,” he said, as she let us in. He nudged me toward her as he diverted to pit lane.

“You’ll have some pie, though,” she answered.

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From somewhere down the hall, his muffled voice said something to the effect of ‘little time’ and maybe something about miles to go before I sleep and miles to go before I sleep.

Aunt Eva leaned down to me. “You’ll have some pie.” (It wasn’t a question she put to me. It was a statement of fact.)

Faster than humanly possible, she drew out the pie, sliced and plated it, and handed me a spoon. It was one of THOSE kinds of pies – all creamy and meringue-y and delicious – the kind that requires a spoon.

Faster than humanly possible, I inhaled it. Hey, it was a kid-covert mission of sorts. I’d heard him say “no time” but Aunt Eva and I set out to prove him wrong, and we did. She anticipated his return and quickly towel-dabbed my face clean before he rounded the corner.

He exchanged the briefest of conversations with Aunt Eva, and then asked if I was ready to go. I nodded my assent, not trusting that the pie was completely swallowed.

It must have been a special kind of hug that Aunt Eva gave me, because – ever after – I believed she was the sweetest, kindest, kid-loving-est Aunt a kid could ever have. And my father and I walked down her tree-root-broken sidewalk to the new car.

The 1948 Plymouth.

Even today, seeing the rusted-out Plymouth in the picture on the internet, I suddenly think of pie and those childhood events we only later recognize as miracles.