Harpin’ the Ling in Boonville, California

Chipmunk (left) went to the hob. “I shied the hob,” harped Deacon, “too codgy. ” “There was a huge fister,” harped Chipmunk, “and the highman of the higheelers brought in thribs deputies and shut ‘er down.” “Not bahl,” harped Deacon. “Gotta have a fister once in awhile to get it out of yer system.”

(Translation: Chipmunk went to the dance. Deacon didn’t…getting too old for that he “harped” or said. Chipmunk said there was a big fight and the sheriff brought in three deputies to shut it down. Not “bahl” or good, “harped” Deacon.)

Boontling is an folk language spoken only in Boonville, in the Anderson Valley of Northern California. It was invented in the late 1800s and had quite a following at the turn of the century. Now it is only spoken by old-timers and heritage.

AUDIO: Harpin’ the Ling in Boonville, California

Sucking Sounds from Sedona

Photos (c) Russell Johnson

This loud bottle blonde was holding court at Judy’s restaurant in Sedona, Arizona. I think she was a tour guide because her voice had the rehearsed nasal whine of one experienced in using a bullhorn. She mentioned her Master’s degree twice. She talked about the spiritual vortices her group would be visiting the next day, about male energy, female energy, magnetic lines of force.about her divorce.

Welcome to Sedona, Arizona which, like other magnificent places, attracts some odd ducks.


Sacramento, Calfornia: It Ain’t Sacatomater Anymore

Long before the Howard Sterns and right wing screamers discovered a way to convert foul breath to radio waves, there was a morning disc jockey in San Francisco who brought joy instead of anger. The late Dr. Don Rose and his slurping, snarfling dog Roscoe, accompanied by an orchestra of arooga horns, falling bodies and quacking ducks woke up The Bay with an stream of unabashed silliness. He shouted out the weather forecast like a train conductor: Saaan Francisco, Saaan Raquel, Saaacatomater.


Gourmet Magazine’s Private Dining Room

Eat Those Words!

It was a day that marks a life passage in a boy’s adolescence. It was spring and I was helping my father remove storm windows and replace them with screens. Robins mined for worms, Dizzy Dean or some other drawling baseball once-great honked from a radio, power lawnmowers chorused. We stopped and refreshed with a lemonade and he — haltingly — told me: “Son, you are reaching the age when I think it is time that you know some of the facts about being a man.”

I laughed. “Oh, I already know all of that, Dad.”

Are you sure, he replied. “Barbecue is really an art.”

I confess that I have always been more of a food voyeur than a chef, barbecue being the exception. As a child, while other kids stuffed Playboys under their mattress, I pored over Good Housekeeping, leering at juicy cuts of tender meat that looked decidedly different from the gray slabs of roast beef my mother scorched as if she were performing exorcisms.


Fried Green Tomatoes al Pesto: Charlotte, North Carolina

 New South 2004 - Old South 1967- R. Johnson
New South 2004 – Old South 1967- R. Johnson

No coffee, no toast, breakfast time is over, said the man at the deli when I tried to grab a brunchtime bite. Even if I could have scored a Krispy Kreme (an ethnic food here), there were few chairs in which to sit.

Once office doors open in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina, the streets around Bank of America, First Union, Wachovia Securities and other towers of trade and arbitrage empty out, save for clumps of lumpy office workers taking smoke breaks. In contrast, I earlier spotted a formation of perhaps fifty trim, smokeless BofA executive trainees dressed and made up like TV weather reporters march off to a meeting. Deli-man says 20-minute lunch breaks are the rule here…if that. “What would Jesus do?” was the corporate motto of BofAs scion Charles McColl, whose company occupies a tower right out of Superman’s Metropolis. Jesus, achiever that he was, would have probably lunched at his desk.