When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for the day my parents would let me use the phone to call someone. It was such a magical idea, thinking I could talk to someone who wasn’t in the same room with me. When I was nine, I finally got the chance. Of course the only person I could think of to call was my next-door-neighbor, Randy; even though I could simply yell to him out our back door if I wanted to. But I didn’t care, I was gonna get to stick my finger in that fancy rotary dialer and whirl it around seven times to reach Randy. And hopefully no one else would already be on the phone when I lifted the receiver off the hook – we actually had a party line shared with another household back in the day.

Like probably every other family in the early ’70s, our phone was mounted on the kitchen wall. And under the phone was a metal cart with this setting on top:


I think you know where this is going. Naturally I got that long, curly phone cord wrapped around the toothpicks, and that jar with the avocado tree that was never going to grow crashed onto the floor. That was the end of my phone privileges for a while.

Eventually I was able to talk on the phone again. And I didn’t stop until I was 18. It seems like I lived to talk on the phone, like most kids. Now I hardly ever talk on the phone. There are so many other things to do on it. We may not be the “Jetsons,” or the society envisioned in “Back to the Future II,” but we’re pretty close. Just think of the hundreds of items a single smartphone replaces today. Here’s a sampling:

  • Actual House Phone
  • Camera
  • Video Camera
  • Stereo
  • TV
  • Video Games
  • Wristwatch
  • Computer
  • GPS
  • Tape Recorder
  • Alarm Clock
  • Calculator
  • Flashlight
  • Pedometer
  • Your favorite book(s)
  • Encyclopedias
  • Remote Control
  • Photo Albums
  • Yellow Pages
  • Datebook
  • Calendar
  • Timer
  • Stopwatch
  • Notepad

Not only can you save thousands not buying all that stuff above, but you don’t even have to go to the post office to send a letter, go to the library to do research, call information for a phone number, or even drive to the bank to make a deposit. And not only do our phones carry out a thousand different tasks for us, but they’re also so easy to use a toddler can operate one.


So it’s no wonder we freak out if we lose our phone, or drop it in the toilet (I don’t recommend carrying your phone in your back pocket). Of course, phones still can’t make sandwiches. When I grabbed my phone and asked Google to make me a sandwich … well, try it for yourself.

Okay, that title is just to get your attention. My Grandpa didn’t really make something called Pickle Soup. But I really did eat soup at my grandparent’s house once, and there were pickles in it.

My sisters and I loved visiting my Grandma and Grandpa when I was kid. B.K., as we affectionately called Grandpa, would always want to show us something like the latest project he was working on in his wood shop, and we’d follow along patiently, knowing he’d eventually lead us to his office to give us each a piece of candy. Our cousins lived right down the street, and all of my sisters and cousins would take turns rolling down the small hill in Grandma and Grandpa’s front yard until we’d run in the house itching like crazy from the grass. Grandma would give us each half an aspirin she crushed into a spoon of sugar water while saying “I told you so,” and then we’d sprawl out right in front of B.K.’s living room chair to watch TV. He had a bunch of little human remotes to change the channel, so he didn’t mind. He’d usually watch something like pro wrestling until we begged him to watch something else. Unless Moondog Mayne was wrestling that day – we loved to watch that crazy bastard eat broken glass and goldfish and what-not.

Whenever we’d spend the night, B.K. would tolerate our sleeping bag fort blocking his view to the TV set in the morning. He’d take us out to the orange tree in the backyard so we could pick fresh oranges to make juice for breakfast, which he’d squeeze himself. Grandma would make fried eggs, potatoes and bacon, or, sometimes … mush.



Grandma did all the cooking at the Coen homestead. For dinner, this usually consisted of elbow macaroni and red sauce, or cube steak, or … well, I actually can’t remember anything else. But whatever she made was awesome, because we were at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and all the cousins were there and everything was right with the world. Plus, that meant I didn’t have to eat Friday Night Casserole at my house.

Grandma also made the best iced tea on the planet. I’ve never been able to recreate it, or find any place that serves iced tea that comes close to hers. She brewed it on the stove, added plenty of sugar, and then served it in a fancy porcelain pitcher. My cousin Lori said she thinks the tea tasted so good because she would drink it while sitting happily on Grandpa’s lap. I can’t imagine it tasting better than it did, because it was already perfection. But, drinking it while sitting on B.K.’s lap would’ve been heaven. I’m fairly certain I never sat still long enough for that, cuz I’d usually consume about four glasses of tea and then run around the yard in a caffeine-fueled frenzy.

Though Grandma was the cook, I remember B.K. making soup once. His version of soup was very similar to Mary Ann’s idea for Friday Night Casserole. Just grab a pot, add water and toss in all kinds of stuff from the fridge. Actually, B.K.’s soup was actually pretty decent; the time I watched him make it, he used vegetables and hamburger. And he really did throw in a few dill pickles.

B.K. loved to save money in every way possible. He’d drive 10 miles out of his way to save a penny per gallon on gasoline. He rolled his own smokes. He told us stories of how he made his own beer in the bathtub – even after Prohibition ended. My Dad said B.K. glued tire tread on the bottom of Dad’s shoes when the soles were thin, instead of buying new shoes. I can remember B.K. telling us kids stories of how much things cost when he was younger. He said you could get a big bag full of groceries for $4.00. He also told us the story several times about the most economical meal at his favorite diner. B.K. would count off on his fingers everything that came on that plate … “a burger, with cheese, all the fixings, plus chips, and a pickle – all for two bits.” Two bits is old-timer fancy talk for a quarter. B.K. was resourceful and loved saving money. I guess living through the Depression will do that to you. My Dad used to always tell him, “You better spend all that money, or we’ll have to spend it when you’re gone.” I say the same thing to my Dad now. He doesn’t listen; which, I guess is fair, since I never did.

Hey, I just searched “Pickle Soup” on google and it actually exists:


Holy crap, I hope Jay doesn’t read this post tonight.




Photo by Duncan Hull

Photo by Duncan Hull


Most kids these days love to use the phrase “Old School” in reference to something from their younger days. Sorry kids, the real “Old School” relates to my generation (you know, old people who went to high school in the late ’70s and early ’80s), and I don’t really want to share it. Maybe I’m getting cranky. I mean, Marcia Brady just turned 60 today. Have some compassion.

Let me school you on “Old School.”

These are not appropriate “Old School” phrases:

     Dude, your Xbox is so old school!

     Remember MySpace? OMG – SO old school, right?

     Check out these old school Pokemon pogs I found buried in my closet!

These are appropriate “Old School” phrases:

     That Cheech & Chong album is so Old School!

     Remember ‘All Skate’ at the roller rink? Man, Old School.

     Look at these Old School Roller Coaster shoes I found buried in my closet!

So kids, you should probably invent your own nostalgic phrase. And don’t even think about using “Back in the Day” either. Here’s a little list to help you determine whether or not you should use the phrase “Old School” to reference your glory days.

Top Ten Experiences That Allow You to Use the Phrase “Old School”

10. You owned at least one album by Parliament, Journey, The Commodores, AC/DC or The Bee Gees.

9. You watched “American Bandstand” or “Soul Train” – or both.

8. You wore painter’s pants and stuck a comb in the back or side pocket.

7. You wore Dittos (girls) or Angel Flights (guys) to dances.

6. You saw the original “Star Wars” and “Friday the 13th” in the theater.

5. You played Atari Pong on the only TV set in your house.

4. You remember when microwaves came out.

3. You watched Michael Jackson on TV when he still had an afro.

2. You know all the lyrics to “Rapper’s Delight.”

1. You cruised your town’s main drag in your friend’s Pinto while listening to an 8-track tape.

If you can identify with any of these experiences, you can safely use the phrase “Old School” in your vocabulary. If not, the only time you should probably use it is when calling me an Old School Crybaby.

Remember how I actually wrote about (and made) Big Mac Casserole because so many people were searching on that term, and then found my blog? Yeah. Good times. Well, there are still people searching for it, cuz “Big Mac Casserole” shows up in the blog’s search terms like every week. Sometimes every day. What is wrong with these people? It always cracks me up. So I decided to check my “All Time Search Terms” to see how many times people searched on “Big Mac Casserole” and then found my blog. Guess what? People out there searched on it 363 times. That’s 363 houses I never want to have dinner.

So, the list of search terms I found made me laugh out loud. Seriously. I can’t believe the things people search on, and stranger yet, how those terms led them to this blog. Some of the searches were so crazy, I just had to share. Here’s a sampling of some for your reading enjoyment:

Second only to Big Mac Casserole is the search term:

beer can hat

Weighing in at 88 searches. Speechless.

In third place, at 71 searches:

gourmet top ramen

And I thought my Mom was the only one who knew about that Asian sensation.

The rest of the searches fall below a dozen each, but all deserve Honorable Mentions:

cheerios casserole

lucky charms casserole

fruit loop casserole

Well, there’s obviously a lot of stoned college students looking for midnight snack ideas, which leads me to another semi-popular search:

food hangover

Or how about:

vomiting face

Looks like there are several foodies out there:

chicken cacciatore with beer

Yeah, that’s the only way to stomach the chicken cacciatore I’m familiar with.

outhouse casserole

That’s fair.

donny osmonds favorite casserole

Oh, whoops, that may have been my own search.

olympia beer casserole dish

And that would be searches by my family members.

This next search term is one of the strangest ever. I still don’t know how it led to my blog:

colors of the early 60s

Have colors changed since the early 60s?

stories of when I was 13 me and my sister and cousin played I’ll show you mine if you show me yours

Apparently there’s Internet access in prison.

dead dad

I love zombies

mom dressed me as a girl for Halloween

Yep, definitely Internet access in prison.

taller than grandma

daughter taller than me

younger sister outgrew me

Can’t we all just get along.

babies picking their butt

I’m still trying to figure out which tags I’ve ever used that led them here.

scary pitchers

What? Did they mean “pictures?” Oh wait, I know … it’s the dreaded powdered milk pitcher.

are you supposed to chew oyster shooters

And the answer is “No.” I hope they learned that from this post.

tag line for nightclub

Be my guest! Friday Night Casserole sounds like a great idea for a meat market.

awesome book titles

Hey, Friday Night Casserole is already the name of an awesome book-in-progress. Get in line, pal.

dog food snobs

Well, that’s certainly not right. If they’re not gonna eat dog food, they’re certainly not gonna eat anything I write about.

satan casserole

Welcome! You’ve found the right blog.

soggy cake

disgusting casseroles

Again, welcome! I think you’ll find what you’re looking for.

yankee doodle dandy casserole

That’s just the fanciest name for a casserole yet. But I don’t think they found what they were looking for.

And probably my favorite search ever:

can you profit from 70’s casserole dishes

From my experience with this blog, I’d have to say that’s a definite “No.”

Shining Star

I was about nine years old when Don McLean’s agonizingly lengthy song “American Pie” came out. It was a tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper – popular musicians from before my time who died in a plane crash on Feb 3, 1959. I remember that song would start playing on the car radio on the way to the grocery store, and would still be playing when we got back into the car after filling a whole shopping cart and waiting in line behind three other people. I never knew what “the day the music died” meant until I was older. And this week, coincidentally 57 years to the day when those three iconic artists perished, is when my music died.

Everyone who knows me thinks Billy Squier is my number one, my main man, my all-time favorite musician. Well, he’s certainly up there in the top two. I didn’t leave my hand unwashed for three years after he grabbed it because I think he’s just so-so. He’s the Bill-Man, after all. But there was someone before him. And his name was Maurice White.

I just read that Maurice passed away. It’s funny that we don’t know our favorite artists personally, but they become such a big part of our life that when we lose them, it’s like losing a good friend. I think most people from my generation will agree that Earth, Wind & Fire was one of the best bands ever. I own almost every album they ever made. And if you’re a true EWF fan, you know that it’s not their popular hit songs that are the best, but it’s all those others on their albums that never got radio play. Maurice could write and sing some seriously uplifting, mystical, spiritual, bad-ass lyrics. And who can sit still when “Shining Star” or “Let’s Groove” comes on the radio? I must’ve listened to those albums thousands and thousands of times. I played them every day through junior high and high school. We danced to their music every day after school in the family room and memorized the lyrics wearing those big ‘ol headphones on our ears. I think it’s safe to say I grew up on EWF.


Earth, Wind & Fire - Positivity On Demand


I think it was in 1981 when I went with friends to see EWF for the first time. It was bittersweet. See, although Maurice and the rest of my favorite group was right there on stage 20 feet away from me, I couldn’t see them because some guy with the WORLD’S BIGGEST AFRO was standing right in front of me the whole time. I’m not kidding, that thing was like a tiny planet. Plus, I had to pee worse than I ever had to pee in my entire life. And there was no getting out of that crowd I was smashed into to try to find a bathroom. Have you ever had to pee so bad that after an hour or so, the feeling goes away? Well, that actually happened. Either that or my bladder fell out and I didn’t notice. To add insult to injury, the guy who asked me to be his date that night flirted with my friend throughout the entire evening. But still, I could hear EWF, and caught glimpses of Maurice every now and then when the afro guy bopped his head to the side. And it was freakin’ awesome.

I saw them again about 10 years ago, and it was just as awesome. Even when I listen to them now, I feel like I’m 16 again. I can close my eyes and I’m right back in my old family room, at the dance, at a party or cruising the “J” in a friend’s car. Luckily, the music doesn’t really die. Maurice and all the others who have left this place have graciously left their music behind.

But, Billy Squier, if you’re reading this, don’t EVER die. I’m not having it.

Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/gjhall/14034306459/”>VibeRide</a&gt; via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com”>Visual hunt</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-ND</a>

Making its annual appearance on this award-winning* blog — which debuted five years ago today — I give you, the infamous post, Mary Ann’s Friday Night Casserole:

There were two kinds of Fridays in our house: Pay Day Friday and Casserole Friday. We loved Payday Friday. Dad would come home from his job at Mare Island with a wad of bills. Sometimes he’d let us hold them. Then everyone would hop into the wood-paneled Ford station wagon and head for A&W, or the family restaurant Palby’s, for a big night out. Ahhh, A&W … sitting in the station wagon parked next to the scratchy-sounding order sign machine thing. My family ordered burgers and root beer — in those fancy frosty mugs of course — however, I always ordered a fish sandwich and grape soda. And yes, they all made fun of me. Except for Coleen, who also preferred the fish sandwich. And she believed you weren’t allowed to have a burger until you were an adult. She finally had her first Big Mac at the ripe old age of 10. Tracy had to wait till she was 11.

Now for Palby’s: if you never lived in Vallejo or visited the bustling Solano County metropolis with its abundance of 1970’ish restaurants, you might’ve missed Palby’s. Sucks for you because Palby’s was awesome. Palby’s was on Highway 80 between Vallejo and Napa in the area that’s now known as American Canyon. Palby’s was like a freaky dinner theater for kids. Look out the window and there were peacocks. There were seals. But we didn’t eat them. I preferred the deep-fried shrimp myself. I recall my little sister Pooh always ordered the ribs and proceeded to happily get the sauce all over her face. Thinking back, Palby’s seemed like a Winchester Mystery House to kids, because there were all these different areas with trippy things to see. Or maybe there was just the lobby and the main dining room and I had an over-active imagination.

Sometimes on Payday Friday, Dad and one or two of us kids would just pop over to Munchie’s on Sonoma Boulevard for 10 cent hamburgers. Munchie’s was a burger joint in a cool round building that sold cheap hamburgers and fries and I just liked saying “Munchies.” Sometimes we’d just grab 300 tacos from Taco Bell, when all they really had was tacos.

But, if it wasn’t a Payday Friday, and you didn’t make plans to get in trouble and stay after school — or better yet, offer to babysit for the neighbor’s heathen kids — you were going to experience Mary Ann’s Friday Night Casserole. God have mercy on your soul.


No rules apply!!!

Check the cupboards for stray cans of stewed tomatoes, cream of mushroom soup, deviled ham or anything else that resembles vomit. Next, go to the fridge and grab any and every leftover you can find saved in old margarine and Cool Whip tubs — these are important casserole ingredients.

Leftover examples:

Pork ‘n Beans
Kentucky Fried Chicken Cole Slaw
Canned Spinach
Taco Meat
Chopped-up Fish Sticks
Creamed Chip Beef Sauce
The last slice of Olive Loaf luncheon meat that will never be eaten
Macaroni and Cheese
White Rice
Filling for Stuffed Bell Peppers
Bread Heels
Chicken Pot Pie
Deviled Eggs
Creamed Corn


Throw all of the ingredients you found into a 13 x 9 casserole dish. Feel free to add canned tomato sauce or a packet of onion soup mix to make it fancy.

Bake at 350 degrees. I’m not sure how long you’re supposed to do this. Just hang around the oven to make sure nothing explodes.

Serve to your happy family. Well, they were happy before dinner. Now they hate your guts and are secretly flipping you off below the table. A few of them might be dry heaving into their towel bibs. You will definitely want to plan a huge dessert for later in the evening (maybe a nice Jello Mold).

* Award for Most Inconsistent Blog Posts in the History of Blogging

Star Wars Mania

People are losing their minds over Star Wars. They can’t wait to see the latest installment in the Star Wars saga up on the big screen. They’ve been lining up at theaters all across the country, even camping out on sidewalks. I guess this happens every time a new sequel, or prequel, comes out. Every other post on my Facebook feed is about Star Wars light saber tattoos, Chewbacca shoes, Star Wars-branded bags of apples. Of course … branded apple bags. Because that makes sense.

The Force Awakens. Well, it’s definitely awakened. Maybe it’s because the big guns are back. Maybe it’s because we all know the effects will be even more awesome than before. Maybe it’s just because it’s Star Wars.

Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that I was losing my mind over Star Wars. The original Star Wars. The one called just “Star Wars.” Well, it was officially Star Wars: A New Hope, but everyone just called it “Star Wars.” But it actually wasn’t until after I saw Star Wars that I lost my mind. I don’t think anybody back in 1977 expected the phenomenon we were going to experience. It just sounded like a cool sci-fi flick to go see on the weekend.

I was 13 when the original Star Wars came out. It was playing at the Uptown Theater in Napa, and me and my BFF, Teresa, went to see it. We had no idea what we were in for. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with that dreamy, blue-eyed space farmboy who would soon be plastered all over the pages of my Tiger Beat magazines. Teresa fell in love with Han Solo. Good … more Luke Skywalker for me. But it wasn’t just a cute Jedi-wannabe that was exciting. It was the whole thing. That film had everything: adventure, romance, mystery, action, comedy, and of course, sci-fi. Not to mention the best music score. We couldn’t get enough of it. It was like crack. I don’t remember how many times I went back to the theater – with hard-earned babysitting money – to experience it all over again. One time I went to see it with my cousin, Shelly, and her mom had to come into the theater (after waiting who knows how long to pick us up outside), find us in the dark, and drag us out after we tried to stay through a second showing. Luckily movie tickets weren’t 500 dollars back then, so we just kept going back.

Star Wars was the shizit in the late ’70s. I remember my 8th grade yearbook had Star Wars art all over the cover. And this is an actual old-school trading card from one of my own fancy junior high scrapbooks:


Luke Skywlker


Star Wars stuff ended up on t-shirts, lunch boxes, posters and everything else you could imagine. And Luke Skywalker and Han Solo were cooler than the Fonz. Of course, all the guys were gaga over Princess Leia, but not as much as when she showed up in that fancy gold bikini six years later in Return of the Jedi.

I never thought I’d someday work for Industrial Light + Magic (thank you Lori!) and witness first-hand how the artists created the special effects for all the Star Wars films, including those in production when I worked there: the Re-Release films and The Phantom Menace. Walking through the halls of ILM was insane. Every once in awhile, one of the model shop guys would cruise around with R2D2. There was a life-size Darth Vader in the lobby, and I have to admit, I always held my breath when I passed him. When I first started working there, part of my job was to review all the resumes that came in. Which were a LOT. If I had a dime for every cover letter that began with, “When I saw Star Wars as a kid, it changed my life,” I’d be richer than George.

Okay, so I’m curious about The Force Awakens, and a tiny bit excited to go see it. I’m sure a lot of you are going to go check out the premiere tonight. Maybe some of you had the chance to see it last night. My sweet friend, Liz, and her awesome hubby, Doug, attended the World Premiere on Monday in Hollywood, since he’s Lucasfilm’s Head of Art Design. I can only imagine how many people were bugging them for details after they saw it. But no one can leak that precious info. Otherwise, this happens:




Darth Vader

May the force be with you.

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