I got a few new articles of clothing from my family for Christmas. They’re currently the only ones I have that aren’t at least lightly covered with dog hair from Angel. Her golden fur stands out nicely against the darker colors I usually wear. These new things will soon be covered with reminders of my fur baby as well. I’ve accepted it as part of the natural order of things.
Author Archives: Rick Ladd
I must confess to being a bit of a pack rat, primarily with papers and a few collectibles or mementos. For instance, I have official NASA mission patches for all the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions, as well as numerous patches for significant events and test activities, including for Vandenberg launch facilities that were never built. I also have two commemorative seat cushions from sporting events I attended; Superbowl XIX, between the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins, and the 1981 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees. I don’t remember which game of the WS I attended, but it had to be either 3, 4, or 5 since it was at Chavez Ravine (Dodger Stadium).
Recently, I came across a binder I’ve had for at least forty years that’s filled with business cards neatly preserved in plastic pages specifically made for such things. I had forgotten I had it out in the garage, but I encountered it recently. Most of the cards are from either when I was in the wholesale food business with my family, or when I was in the music business pretending I knew what I was doing. SIDE NOTE: As it turned out, despite a propensity to be a bit of an asshole, I was nowhere near the kind of asshole one needs to be to succeed in the business end of the music biz.
One of these cards is particularly interesting to me. It’s from the lawyer we engaged to keep a friend out of prison for possession for sale of cocaine. This is part of a much longer story which I am writing about in my autobiography/memoirs (have yet to decide the final format). A little over a decade after our engagement with this lawyer, he became far more well-known due to his representation of a famous athlete, who was accused of murder. The card is somewhat unique, as it is a parchment fold-over, with a script inside for people to use if they come under the scrutiny of law enforcement personnel. Do you remember this guy?
My Life as a Wiener Clerk
Sometime in my first year of law school I had the opportunity to work at a place called The Wiener Factory. It was located just west of Kester on Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. Owned by a former stock broker turned English teacher, it was one of the truly iconic places in the San Fernando Valley to get a hot dog or other type of sausage (knackwurst, polish). The dogs all had natural casings, so they snapped when you bit into one. We also used egg bread buns that were steamed prior to placing a dog in them and the mustard was Gulden’s, slightly thinned with a bit of pickle juice. We did not served French Fries; instead we served hot German potato salad and coleslaw.
I worked for the original owner, whose name I can only remember as Gene. He had a way with words, as evidenced by the walls, which were covered with graffiti. The entire inside of the place was filled with different pithy sayings and slogans, many of which he had invented himself (I think; who knows?). The only two I can remember are “Please tell us how long you want us to hold the onions” and “We may be contumacious, but we’re never revocatory.” They were all amusing. However, were you to step out in the back where the bathrooms were located, it was a different story. There, the graffiti was raunchy and risqué, bordering on the profane. It was not something you were likely to encounter very often in your life. It was, after all, the early seventies.
We served them with mustard, relish, and onions, mustard and sauerkraut (one of my all-time favorites), mustard, chili, cheese, and onions, and two that were oddballs at the time – red cabbage and cheese and coleslaw and cheese. Lately, I have been purchasing Hoffy all-beef, natural casing wieners and they are reminiscent of the Vienna dogs we served back then and that I used to buy in 10-pound bags when I was working with my father in the wholesale beat business.
This morning I got nostalgic. I had been eating kraut dogs intermittently for some time, but the thought of a coleslaw and cheese dog has been invading my consciousness with increasing frequency. Since I had to make a stop at Vons to pick up some items for a dinner we’re making for some friends tonight, I checked out what was available coleslaw-wise. There was some at the service deli, but it was early and they weren’t quite up and running and I didn’t feel like waiting. However, I was able to find a tub of it in one of the stand alone deli cases where they provide salads, cold cuts, cheeses, and other items one might want.
I don’t have any egg buns, but I do have hot dog buns and I also have some Gulden’s mustard and some cheddar cheese slices. So I used a paring knife to further slice the cheese into bits (impossible to grate a slice of cheese). I nuked the dog, then the bun with the dog in it and the cheese on top (I had already drawn a thick thread of mustard at the bottom of the bun) and, finally, topped it off with a generous helping of coleslaw.
Of course it wasn’t exactly as I remembered (is anything?) but it was close enough … and it was heavenly. I’m going to do it again. Tonight, though, is reserved for Italian Wedding Soup that Linda made for our friends. We’re taking a big pot of it over to their place and serving it with pepperoncinis, stuffed olives, and fresh garlic bread.
Fragile Masculinity is a Disease
As a genuine, card-carrying man I’d like to offer my opinion on the study I’m linking to here. In 1967 I set out to discover what was happening up in San Francisco, specifically in the Haight-Ashbury district of the city. It was the end of the summer. I had a little money and a fair amount of wetness behind the ears.
I spent the next couple of years living on and (barely) off the streets. I slept in parks during the day, on lots of couches, and was at times able to rent a room, sparse as it may have been. I spent a lot of time dealing with strangers, some of whom were possibly dangerous. Although I had some experience fighting (it was hard to grow up as a Jewish boy without running into some anti-semitism) it wasn’t something I relished or had a great deal of experience at.
I had to learn to protect myself and I learned two valuable lessons very quickly. The first lesson was that the best way to win a fight was to never get into one in the first place. The second was somewhat of a corollary and speaks to the substance of this article. I learned that even the appearance of quiet confidence (no matter how twisted your gut was with fear or anxiety) went a long way toward making all but the craziest think twice before going after you physically.
I also learned, as a part of the second lesson, that the men who exhibited the most braggadocio, the ones who (figuratively) pounded their chests or banged their fists on the table, were almost without fail the most insecure and fearful of failure.
In my less than humble opinion, any man who looks up to Donald Trump as a strong man or role model is seriously lacking in self-confidence and self-assurance. Trump (aka #TFG) is demonstrably one of the most insecure and unmanly men I have had the displeasure of encountering in my over 75 years. No man, in my experience, who is secure in his masculinity has to brag about the size of his dick, as if that had anything to do with his worth as a human being.
Fragile masculinity is a disease and is far too widespread, and paternalism and patriarchy are poisons to a truly just and egalitarian society. More men need to speak up, IMO, and this includes defending our LGBTQI+ brothers and sisters.
I’m Not a Chef, But …
My very first job, that is the first one I got paid for, was at a McDonald’s in Arleta, CA. I was sixteen years old and had just gotten my driver’s license. My first day I did nothing but make milkshakes. My second day I bagged french fries. Then they discovered I knew how to work the cash register and to make change. From then on I worked the window, taking and fulfilling orders. I had nightmares involving endless lines of people who ate every meal there (at least lunch and dinner; McDonald’s didn’t serve breakfast in 1963) every day. These dreams were based, in part, on the fact there were several customers who did eat there every day. It was a frightening thought.
My second job was as a bus boy at Pancake Heaven, which no longer exists but was just around the corner from the McDonald’s I cut my working teeth on. I eventually became a fry cook there for a while and learned how to make breakfasts, for the most part. At least, that’s all I can barely remember. I also worked at Mike’s Pizza on Van Nuys Blvd. for a while. The only thing I remember about that job was sneaking out a bottle of Chianti in a trash can filled with the sawdust I was responsible for changing out every few days so the floors were reasonably clean.
The Summer before I graduated High School, which was actually the Summer after I should have graduated High School, I worked as a “bus boy” at Pacific Ocean Park (POP). My job was to walk around the pier on which the park was built and scoop trash into one of those self-opening dust pans and empty it into one of the larger trash bins that were placed all over the “park”. It actually had nothing to do with food or food service, other than that most of the trash was created by people who had purchased something to eat and were too damned lazy to deposit the trash in a receptacle themselves.
I didn’t work in or around food service again until 1973, when I tended bar at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles, where I was raising money for my upcoming trip to Cuba with the 6th contingent of the Venceremos Brigade. I had studied Hapkido with Ed Pearl, the owner of the club. It was a favorite target for anti-Castro Cubans and was burned down for the third and final time shortly after I worked there. I don’t think we had a liquor license; only a beer and wine license, so tending bar wasn’t quite as intellectually challenging as it would have been had I been required to remember dozens of mixed drinks, but it was a busy venue and I enjoyed my time there.
Shortly after returning from Cuba, in my first year of law school, I secured a position as a “wiener clerk” at The Wiener Factory in Sherman Oaks, CA, where I served up the finest hot dogs, knackwurst, and polish sausage to ever cross a taste bud. Even though they closed on December 31, 2007 (15 years ago) it’s still talked about as the top example of how a hot dog should be presented to the discriminating public. I loved it there. PS – Click on the link and you might find my posthumous review of the place, which I posted almost 12 years ago.
I didn’t work in food service again until sometime in the mid-nineties. I had left my job at Rocketdyne to rejoin my brother in a family wholesale food/restaurant supply business our father had started when I was 13. After less than two years it wasn’t going well and I decided to leave and fend for myself. One of my customers was Les Sisters Southern Kitchen in Chatsworth, CA. The owner at the time, Kevin Huling, was working his butt off and wanted to be able to take a day off during the week. I offered to run the place for him on Wednesdays and, until I returned to Rocketdyne, I managed the restaurant once a week. My favorite day was when I had to wait on tables. I made quite a bit more money than I did from just managing the place (hint: tips!).
In addition to all these jobs, my father was working at the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles when I was born. He worked at Faber’s Ham Shop, which was a stand in the market that sold lunch meats and fresh chickens. He liked to refer to himself as a butcher, but my birth certificate lists his occupation as “Food Clerk”. I remember my mother taking me shopping there when I was about five years old. We took Pacific Electric’s Red Car on the Red Line that stretched from San Fernando, running right through Panorama City, where we lived, to downtown L.A. My father put me in a far-too-large, white butcher’s coat, and put a Farmer John paper campaign hat on my head, stood me on a milk crate and had me selling lunch meat for an hour or so. I learned my first three words of Spanish behind that counter, which were “¿Que va llevar?” literally “what are you going to carry?”, but was more loosely translated as “what’ll you have?” or “what can I get for you?”
Later on, specifically right after I handed over every check I received for my Bar Mitzvah gift to my father so he could buy a truck, he went out on his own. He became the broken wienie king of Los Angeles, buying (essentially) mistakes from packing houses and selling them to his old boss, as well as to other small markets scattered throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Until his death in 1984, I spent virtually every school holiday being his “swamper” on his route or later on delivering and selling on my own as part of the business. Somewhere around 1994 I left my job at Rocketdyne to rejoin my brother in the family business, once again selling almost exclusively to restaurants.
My point is, I have no formal training in the culinary arts, but during a rather large portion of my life until I was around 50, I spent quite a bit of time working in jobs and being involved in businesses that involved food; at times merely delivering it and at other times preparing and serving it. I know my way around a kitchen and I know quite well how to operate a successful food business. It’s not easy. People can be real assholes when they’re hungry, and people who cook can be real prima donnas, so learning to satisfy your customers can be a painful experience. It is, however, quite rewarding when it works out. I think you have to genuinely like people in order to do it well.
From a FB Friend
I didn’t write the following. However, I think it adds to my last post about Sun Tsu’s admonition to know one’s enemy and know oneself. It’s well written and says much more than I did in that post of mine.
A big part of the freakout you’re seeing from Elon and the rest of the rightwing crowd is that they just ran a whole campaign against the “woke mind virus” and LGBTQ people in an electoral environment that should have favored them heavily–and they lost.
They thought they had a big popular majority for “anti-woke.” They did not. They lost. Elon is going anti-woke, and going broke. All their rightwing startups are going belly-up. They lost a Senate seat, and without new illegal gerrymandering they would’ve lost the House.
Normies voted against them. Women were more furious about Roe than they expected. Young people voted big against them. They’ve lost the culture, and they’ve lost faith in electoral solutions to it. Who is gonna save them? Trump 2024? DeSantis 2024? Lol.
Tech is stacked in favor of the GOP: the Facebook groups/algorithms & YouTube algorithms favor them. They dominate AM radio & cable news. Twitter was the most balanced & responsible, so Elon bought it because the far right couldn’t stomach even a hint of social responsibility.
But they still lost. They lost the popular vote in 2016. They lost in 2018. They lost in 2020. They lost embarrassingly in 2022. They lost in Brazil. Putin lost in Ukraine. White Christian Nationalism is failing. So they’re taking desperate measures for control.
As generational replacement continues and the failures of authoritarianism become more obvious, they will lose even harder. The desperation for control will increase. Times will get more dangerous. But as long as the rest of society resists, we will win.
This “rest of society” is what the far-right calls “The Cathedral” as if it’s some conspiracy. They see themselves as a brave rebellious resistance to it. But of course none of that is true. They are defending the hegemony of good ol’ boy power.
Meanwhile, “the cathedral” is no such thing. Creatives, the well-educated, scientists, real altruists and curious all lean left. Young people are economically disadvantaged, and lean left. The big problems like climate change do not have rightwing answers.
Now even big corporations seem to lean left in their public comms only because 18-45 year olds are the target advertising demo. And guess where we live, what our values are and how we vote? The Fox News audience isn’t the target demo anymore. Too bad.
So now you’ve got a coalition of theocrats with aging, declining followings, and megalomaniac billionaires who think only an dictatorship under their control will lead humanity into a sci-fi future of their grandiose and self-serving delusions.
But normal people aren’t buying in–especially the vast majority of people under 45. They’re going to lose. As for twitter? Either Elon gets bored and makes it normal again, or he turns it into Gab and destroys it as the people who actually provide value on twitter move elsewhere–to places like here.
And regarding Elon’s “longtermism”? No worries–progressives and ethical science will get us to a sustainable sci-fi San Junipero future just fine. And we’ll get there faster and more safely the more that Dunning-Kruger tyrants like Elon are sidelined from control over it.D. Atkins
Conservatism Will Lose
“Know thy enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle.”~ Sun Tsu
For me, this quote explains why conservatives are eventually going to lose the “culture wars”. They consistently insist on ascribing thoughts and values to liberal and progressives that are figments of their overactive imaginations when, in fact, they are more often than not projecting. They don’t know their “enemy”, nor do they know themselves.
This isn’t to say they won’t cause a lot of damage, destruction, and even death as they attempt to control the narrative and impose their values on everyone. But I do believe their “causes” will never prevail in the long run, in large part because they’re clueless about not only our motivations, but even their own.