Arts, Entertainment, Living

Steinbeck's Drive in the Desert

Wednesday, 17 November 2010 11:26 PM Written by

EIGHTY FOUR, PA. -- My house

Steinbeck Watch: On this date in 1960 John Steinbeck, poodle Charley and Steinbeck's old friend and lawyer Toby Street were slowly riding east in Rocinante toward Steinbeck's 10-day Thanksgiving layover in the Texas Panhandle.

Steinbeck doesn't mention Street's presence in "Travels with Charley" but he nicely describes their backdoor route out of California, which I retraced almost three weeks ago ("Fleeing California"

"From Salinas to Los Banos, through Fresno and Bakersfield, then over the pass and into the Mojave Desert, a burned and burning desert even this late in the year, its hills like black cinders in the distance, and the rutted floor sucked dry by the hungry sun."  DSC_0450

Eventually they would meet U.S. Highway 66 in Barstow, where it was/is main street. They would ride Route 66 through the southwest desert to Needles, Calif., and then east into Arizona, passing through towns like Kingman, Williams and Flagstaff, just as I did.DSC_0544_copy

Toby Street left Steinbeck and Charley in Flagstaff. In 1975, seven years after Steinbeck died, he was interviewed by San Jose State University Steinbeck scholar Martha Heasley Cox.

Street told Cox that his ride-along in Rocinante was far from romantic:

“  . . . it wasn’t a very good experience because this trailer … made so much noise.  It rumbled so as we went along ….  We went to various places, but I was only with him four days. He was going to go to Texas to be with Elaine’s family.  But I couldn’t spare the time, so I got a plane and came back.  I went from Flagstaff to Tucson and then home.”

After Steinbeck "rushed through Gallup in the night" he said in "Charley" that he camped overnight in a canyon on the Continental Divide.

East of Gallup, on an abandoned patch of old Route 66 at Exit 47 of I-40, I stopped on my "Travels Without Charley" trip to look at the raggedy and unloved "Official Scenic Historic Marker" for the Continental Divide.DSC_0689_copyDSC_0687

It's located near the weed-strangled ruins of what apparently was once the Continental Divide Trading Post, elevation 7,245.

One of several businesses aimed at travelers that were busy and prosperous when Steinbeck passed by, the trading post now is just a slowly decaying relic of the Early Elvis Age in a little Route 66 ghost town.

In "Charley," Steinbeck wrote about how bummed out he was when he camped that night. Rocinante's little kitchen was a mess. For the last several hundred miles he had deliberately avoided people.

Steinbeck knew his long trip in search of America and its people was not going well.  He wasn't seeing enough, hearing enough, learning enough. "Why," he asked himself in "Charley," "had I thought I could learn anything about this land?"

Join the conversation:

Baked Potato Soup

Wednesday, 17 November 2010 11:06 AM Written by


Baked Potato Soup
It is cold, windy, and damp outside ... perfect day for Baked Potato Soup! You won't believe how easy this is! Once you bake the potatoes, the soup comes together rather quickly. Kids LOVE this!

This is a Double Duty meal too. Once you scoop out the potato from the skin, be sure to save the skins for Friday night! We are going to bake the potato skins, load them up with cheese and extra goodies, and serve them with chili.

When you take advantage of the special on a 10 lb. bag of potatoes at Giant Eagle this week ($1.99 per bag), this is one budget friendly meal!



Join the conversation:

FX's 'Terriers' makes beautiful music

Wednesday, 17 November 2010 12:00 AM Written by

I've written several times about FX's "Terriers" (10 tonight), from the show's premiere to star Donal Logue's visit to the University of Pittsburgh. It's a terrific little show that not enough viewers are watching, perhaps in large part due to a marketing campaign misfire.

Only a couple of more episodes remain, so let this be another pitch for the show by way of its upbeat, surf music-styled theme song. I had asked FX publicists about the music when the show started because I found the theme so catchy. I'm glad they've gotten around to posting a full version to YouTube:


Join the conversation:

Steelers (Ticket) Style

Wednesday, 17 November 2010 12:00 AM Written by



This isn't just your average black and gold fashion post, but a really cool contest sponsored by Larrimor's. The Pittsburgh retailer is giving away 2 tickets to the December 12, 2010, Steelers vs. Bengals game at Heinz Field to one lucky Facebook Fan!

To enter the giveaway you must be a fan of Larrimor's on Facebook (click here to visit Larrimor's Facebook fan page) and post a comment on Larrimor's Wall naming the one Steeler who most needs a Larrimor's makeover! The winner will be chosen at random on Monday, December 6, 2010, and announced on Facebook. Three runners-up will receive Terrible Towels courtesy of Larrimor's. Limit one entry per person.

Who doesn't want a pair of FREE Steelers tickets? I know I wouldn't hate them. And in case you are wondering, black and gold is always in style!

Be sure to check back on Friday for another Clutch post!

Join the conversation:

New Patti Spadaro CD - "Bringing Me Back"

Wednesday, 17 November 2010 12:00 AM Written by

cd-design-front-cover-1_35We've been a little remiss here in taking so long to get to the new CD by Pittsburgh's Patti Spadaro -- she had her CD release party last Saturday -- so it's time that we caught up.

Spadaro and her band have a kind of jam blues-rock feel to their  work in general, and especially with her earlier CD, "Short Stay."

This time, with "Bringing Me Back," she explores her original songs with a slightly more laid-back quality, with songwriting that looks at life with a sharp eye and clear voice.

The music flows easily, and Spadaro's guitar work here manages to be fluid and still maintain an edge. This isn't a pure blues CD, but she plays and sings with bluesy rhythms. Her. live performances with other area musicians often take on a lam-like quality where everyone contributes to a musical centerpiece

From the opening "Live Out Loud" to the closing "By My Side," the, a steady rhythmic flow propels thoughtful lyrics -- it sounds easy and simple, but it's deceptively good, authentic music.

It's great to have this kind of quality music in the region (thanks to Patti for bringing her music here nine years ago after leaving Philadelphia for a decade of making music in LA).

Here's a video of "Live Out Loud" from her CD release party:

Join the conversation:

Pittsburgh dissed by a zombie

Tuesday, 16 November 2010 06:38 PM Written by

zombie_slateThe folks at Slate have cooked up an excerpt from a non-existent book by a fictitious performer that includes quite a diss of Pittsburgh.

Read more after the jump. ...


Join the conversation:

Busy Week - Easy Dinners

Tuesday, 16 November 2010 02:38 PM Written by

Pasta With Vodka Sauce
WOW - this week is crazy busy for us! Do you ever feel that life is flying at warp speed??? I know it is the time of year and things will settle down after the holidays ... right? This mama is hoping it will!

Last night we served up this delicious and easy pasta dish - Pasta with Vodka Sauce! Oh.My.Goodness. - Everyone loved it! The kids - well except for Cam - loved the Caesar Salad too! After we returned from CCD I quickly assembled dinner - probably less than 30 minutes! We are really enjoying our Meatless Monday dinners. If you have any veggie or meatless dinners that you would like to share, please send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Tonight on this dreary and ugly day, Salmon is on the menu. This recipe was passed to me by my sister. Everyone loves how easy and delicious and healthy this meal is! I hope you enjoy it! 

Join the conversation:

'Mad Men' tie-in: 'Sterling's Gold' by Roger Sterling

Tuesday, 16 November 2010 12:00 AM Written by

Sterlings_GoldDue in stores today, "Sterling's Gold" by Roger Sterling is a "Mad Men" tie-in ($16.95, Grove Press) that bears the name of the memoir written this past season by the "Mad Men" character played by John Slattery. But it's not that actual book.

Instead, readers get a crib job of the best Roger Sterling lines from the AMC series.

Read more after the jump. ...

Join the conversation: