Someone on Reddit a few months back said that E-40 sounds like he’s rapping in bubble letters, and that may be one of the most accurate descriptions of any rapper that I’ve ever heard in my entire life.
Fonzarelli is an all-time great, and this joint is always so smooth no matter how many times in a row you play it:
As we launch The Sound Pantry Radio Network here with this inaugural episode of our flagship show, I wanted to commemorate the start of this journey by first introducing myself and sharing the significance of what all has gone down in this past year that led to my launching this network in the first place.
As a member of the very same village/community/tribe that I’m hoping to build through this radio network, I feel like the best recipe for making meaningful connections involves keeping it eye-level at all times about the very similar journey that a lot of us embark on yet don’t always feel comfortable enough to share. Simply put, being honest about our fight for the light is a lot more uplifting and empowering in contrast to whatever it is that we do when we posture and pose on socials like it’s all good all the time (even though clearly it isn’t…AND THAT’S OKAY).
This introduction episode is a bit longer than I had originally planned, but there’s a whole lot of good stuff from front to back here. I appreciate your joining us for this ride, and I’ll be sure to save you a seat for the next go-round.
I’m here to let you know The Sound Pantry Radio Network has officially taken to the skies.
We are building out the network as (initially) a quartet of shows that will bring smiles down different aisles:
Visiting with Uncle Abe
Visiting with Uncle Abe takes us into the wonderful world of The Deacon of Speakin’ as he introduces us to the diverse people, places, events, and explorations that ultimately help him fill up his happiness pie chart…one slice at a time.
Comida Crew is a car ride that you don’t want to end…where the car is freshly washed, the gas tank is full, and we’re visiting friends, family, and our favorite establishments to deep dive into dining experiences that bring forth emotions and memories way beyond just what’s in front of us on the plate.
No Late Fees
Every Friday night my Dad used to take me to R&T Video Masters to pick out one movie and one video game that would hold us over for the entire weekend. So in that same tradition, every episode we’ll be checking out one movie, one video game, and trying not to spill too much popcorn on the couch.
TSP Radio(Spotify Only)
TSP Radio is a weekly ride into 2 hours of music (sometimes more) carefully assembled by yours truly. A regular collection of heat designed to make you move in your seat!
Just think of The Sound Pantry Radio Network like the sun spinning high above you in the sky, and you’re the person that just rolled up to the beach with your cooler full of ice cold drinks ready to drink in all these rays.
Except unlike the sun you can enjoy this shine at any hour of the day AND you don’t need to moisturize before you drink in these soundwaves (unless you want to…in which case you must be a fly individual).
Wherever you may be and however you may be listening to these shows on our network, please know that I appreciate you.
I just stumbled upon a new video with The LOX and DMX at 1:12am on a Wednesday night which then took me down a rabbit hole of early 50 Cent mixtapes until like 5 minutes ago when I realized “damn I can barely keep my eyes open” but for some odd reason I still wanted to check in here real quick and document this moment in history for posterity’s sake.
When it comes to the riskiness of accepting questionable dinner invites, the wisdom of the great Dejuan Walker applies quite beautifully and consistently: if you stay ready, then you don’t have to get ready.
My Dad was quite a storyteller, and as an older dude I’m not entirely sold on what percentage of his stories were actually true, but one of my favorites was about his buddy Tony King and the life-changing gem that Tony gave my Pops in the early 70s.
My Pops was working at Gateways Hospital and Mental Health Center on the overnight shift right after he had moved down to L.A. from The Bay Area. I think at this time he was working like 3 jobs just to keep moving and support himself. Anyway, he had this group of buddies on that night shift crew that was the source of a seemingly endless stream of anecdotes, gems, and tales that he would share as I got older and as I gradually developed the right antenna to appreciate the gems contained within.
Anyway, the one particular gem from this crew that has woven itself deep into the fabric of my existence is what I was raised to know as “Doing the Tony King”. So my Pops had a buddy on this overnight crew–Tony King–who used to go to a lot of dinners with friends and family, and for some reason the people in his life just weren’t that gifted in the culinary department. Time after time Tony and his wife were going to these dinners where either the food tasted terrible or–even better–there’d be one bowl of Lay’s potato chips, a cup of French Onion dip a little bit bigger than a golf ball, and one missing guest by the name of Jesus H. Christ who would be the only person capable of multiplying these 42 chips into a spread actually fit for a houseful of people.
Eventually Tony became so fed up with going unfed (pun intended) that he and his wife devised a system: whenever they’d be set to go to dinner at the house of someone who was notorious for either burning the pot roast or providing a less-than-impressive assortment of crumbs for their guests, they would make it a point to eat on their own at the crib before they headed out the house to the residence of whoever had extended tonight’s invite.
It was genius.
In the best case scenario, they’d arrive with their having already eaten, dinner would be served, the meal would actually end up being on-point for the first time in 40 attempts, and Tony and his wife would eat a little just to keep up appearances while also being surprised at this magical twist of fate.
Not a bad outcome.
In the worst version of their dinner date, they’d similarly arrive full just like in the first scenario, the food would end up being a let-down for the 40th time just like they anticipated, they’d eat a little just to maintain face and be polite, and then when the time came they’d be on their way home laughing at how they had cheated the system (and happy that they weren’t having to find someplace open for a desperation burger and fries at 11:00pm back in the early 1970s when they didn’t have all the late-night options that us youngsters have today in these times of 1:30am taqueros on multiple corners).
I feel like at this point in our story you can see where this is headed:
GOD BLESS TONY KING AND HIS GENIUS WHEREVER HE MAY BE CURRENTLY CHILLIN’…WHETHER THAT BE SOMEWHERE HERE IN THIS LIFE OR SOMEWHERE SMILING DOWN UPON ME IN THE NEXT
Do you know how many times I myself have done The Tony King?! And do you know how many times doing The Tony King has saved me from the wackest of meals?! Even when going to visit my own cotdamn parents?!?! (FYI there’s no rule against using The Tony King in the presence of whoever it was that taught The Tony King to you in the first place)
“Doing the Tony King” is a practice that all of us should embrace immediately. Especially in this time when we’re all in our cribs learning to make bagels or perfecting our three-egg ham-and-cheese omelette technique (mine is pretty cotdamn flawless these days…the secret is putting butter on the pan so that the egg can move, flip, and fold when you need it to…and yes, OF COURSE Cil was the one who gave me that ever-so-essential technique tidbit).
Because soon enough The Rona will have passed and the invites for dinner will start flowing in.
And since you still love these very same people that can’t seem to rub two baguettes together to make bread crumbs, you’ll accept these invites, you’ll pick your favorite mask to go with your outside clothes that you haven’t worn in months, and you’ll make the trek on over the house of someone who has been blessed with the gift of having a big heart but also has simultaneously not been blessed with the understanding that Flaming Hot Cheetos and sour cream doth not a dinner spread maketh.
And before you leave the house you and your partner will stand there in your kitchen fully dressed and eating a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich, feeling like a couple of pre-planning geniuses as this small move of preparation will several hours later have you both laughing in the car on the way home as you recall the look on the faces of your poor cousins as they sat right beside you watching your Tita emerge from the kitchen with that single 8-piece of Jollibee fried chicken and 2 baseball-sized mounds of rice with gravy being brought out on the fine serving dishes like it was actually homemade and like we don’t all know what Jollibee smells like and like it would actually feed the 10 people seated around the dining table.
“HELLO, PILIPINO JESUS? KUMUSTA NAMAN KA? IT’S ME ABRAHEEZEE…DO YOU THINK YOU COULD COME BY MY COUSIN’S HOUSE TO HELP MULTIPLY THIS FOOD SO WE CAN ALL EAT? H…HELLO?! JESUS?! ARE YOU STILL THERE?!”
And to think…here, on this day, on this simple website, your life was changed forever thanks to the wise words of a dude named Tony King who worked the overnight shift with my Pops back in the early 1970s and in actuality may or may not have even existed in the first place.
Fuck it…in the interest of maintaining a proper written record and oral history, let us not give credit to a dude that–given my Pops’ track record–may have never actually been a real person. Instead, let’s credit the great man who was benevolent and giving enough to share his inherited wisdom with you here today in written form.
From this day forth, anytime you find yourself heeding the wisdom of this here tale and grabbing a quick quesadilla with avocado before you and your partner head out the house to yet another potential bummer dinner party, I want you to raise your quesadilla skyward and say out loud:
And then I’ll be somewhere chilling with my nephews, playing XBox and listening to Labi Siffre, the hairs on my arm will stand up as I feel your gratitude traversing the expanses of the universe and finding its way to me wherever I may be in that moment, and in the same way that your thanks found its way to me through the whisper of the wind I’ll gently whisper back to you with my eyes closed:
“YOU ARE WELCOME, BELOVED READER…YOU ARE WELCOME…AND HEY, LISTEN…IT’S NOT WEIRD OR ANYTHING, BUT IF YOUR DINNER ACTUALLY ENDS UP BEING GOOD, DO YOU THINK YOU CAN SEND ME A PICTURE OF YOUR MEAL?…YES, I KNOW IT SOUNDS WEIRD BUT TRUST ME IT’S NOT WEIRD…IT’S JUST ME BEING SUPPORTIVE…OKAY, I HAVE TO GO NOW…MY NEPHEW JUST SCORED ANOTHER GOAL ON ME AND HE’S TALKING MAJOR SHIT AS PER USUAL…OKAY, TALK TO YOU LATER…I LOVE YOU…PEACE OUT”
Food recommendations, Yelp, and the Circle of Trust
I know you’re reading this right now, but I want you to pretend like you’re closing your eyes for a minute.
Breathe in deeply, then exhale. Now keep your eyes closed. I want you to think about all the people in your life that you love. Now I want you to think about a time when one of those very same people told you to go to their favorite burrito spot because the food was “amazing”, you made it a point to go that very burrito spot, and you left so disappointed you contemplated deleting that person entirely from your contacts list.
Now open your eyes. What is the name of this person–this Judas Iscariot–in whom you so willfully placed your trust only to have them lead you astray? And was this only time that this person has betrayed your trust so egregiously?
There’s a lot of people in my life that I love. Let’s get that out in the open. Especially in these emotionally trying times of The Rona, I’m reminded more than ever of the perpetually empowering feeling I get from those in my crew who make me feel invincible because they love me no matter what day of the week it is and no matter what type of goofiness I may be on from day to day.
That being said, some of y’all need to stop recommending food spots to me. Please. I’m a great storyteller, but cotdammit sometimes you make me feel like Christopher Nolan trying to weave a tale of how your favorite burrito spot also changed MY life when I never even went after your recommendation because I knew better than to ruin my Tuesday night dinner plans like that. So what did I do? I went to Yelp, read some reviews, cobbled together some relevant points about the menu, and reported back to you with all the reasons why you were right about that tortilla-enveloped capsule being worth the price of admission.
Oh, I’m going to get to you cornball Yelp navegantes too…but let me talk first about setting boundaries with family when it comes to food recommendations.
Look, man. It’s not that I don’t love you. There’s no question about where my heart lies. But some folks just aren’t built for this recommendation game, and that’s okay. And it’s not a matter of anyone having bad taste…it’s more about having a broken antenna. Let’s go to Baskin Robbins so I can explain this a bit better.
You’ve been to a Baskin Robbins, right? You walk in and they say “Welcome to Baskin Robbins! Let me know if you want to try anything!” And if you just landed on this planet or if maybe you’ve haven’t spent the last 36 years of your life dedicated to cookies-n-cream and mint-n-chip like I have, you end up having this 22-year-old frozen dairy sommelier behind the counter serve as your tour guide through their wonderful world of 31 flavors. And they’ll usually start you off with a simple question like “What do you like? Chocolate? Sweeter flavors? Something more low-key?” Like an ice cream version of the 21 Questions game or like bumpers on a bowling alley this youngin’ behind the counter is going to help you walk through the samples, narrow down the potential finalists, and lock in on your tastebuds until they hopefully help you arrive at a flavor that is for YOU and that will have you walking out of there with a smile.
This is how food recommendations should work, man. You gotta know your audience. It’s the number one rule of comedy, the number one rule of pretty much any kind of entertainment, and quite possibly the number one rule of interacting with other human beings (okay maybe Rule #1.5 behind The Golden Rule).
There are many immutable laws when it comes to food (stop cutting my sandwich in half, don’t put too many water elements or else the bun is gonna get soggy, never order rice and beans at a spot that mostly sells tacos…there are too many to get into right now). And if you’re going to be out here eating suspect food, that’s completely cool. Hey man, your idea of fly is what gets you by, so do you, boo boo.
If you’ve been out in these streets for 18 months eating at a couple of spots with your new girlfriend or your new homie that calls themself a “foodie” in their IG bio and now all of a sudden you think you can put on a pair of Clarks’ Desert Boots and call yourself the Second Coming of Bourdain, then allow me to be the first to tell you:
THOU MUST PUMP THINE BRAKES. – THE BOOK OF ABRAHEEZEE, CHAPTER 1: VERSE 5
Not everyone is built for this recommendation game. If a place sucks, keep it moving. I don’t believe in writing bad reviews. I’ve never been one to believe in the unnecessary expenditure of energy and stroking of one’s ego that is writing a bad review. We’re dealing with people’s livelihoods in these restaurants, and you don’t want that kind of karma sitting on your head if you’re out here contributing to someone’s shutdown as a result of your palate-related poetry. But if you are actively out here recommending food places to people that you LOVE, then you had better cotdamn well know what you’re doing.
Giving out food recommendations is like unprotected sex. It’s only safe and enjoyable if you know what you’re doing and you’re engaging with the right dance partner in a mutual space of love and trust. Otherwise you’re disturbing the balance of the dining world and fucking up people’s dinner plans.
We’re only blessed with so many meals in this life. So here’s Uncle Abe’s 3 Rules for filtering only valid food referrals into your Yelp “Places to Peep” list:
Rule #1: When someone tells you “Yo, man, you gotta peep XYZ spot!” you better come right back at them with questions:
“Oh word? What was your favorite thing there?” “What was it about said item that you dug?”
Now this is the first checkpoint. If they can’t tell you specifically what they liked about this spot and what in particular about this item stood out to them, then they’re just fucking about and wasting your time. They kinda sorta liked their meal, and they’re trying to throw a recommendation your way just so they can feel like a sabio and act like they’re “in the know” like my Nino Ray loves to do. But if they have good answers here, then proceed to rule #2:
Rule #2: If they mention anything about the ambiance, run in the opposite direction.
This may be a hard one for you to digest, but FUCK AMBIANCE. I can’t tell you the number of spots that I’ve been to that were in amazing scenic locations but had the wackest food. And I’ve had some of the best meals of my life in places that were hella rundown and had unmentionable bathroom situations. What’s the reasoning here? Well, it’s simple…the owner knows that the visuals are going to bring in the crowds, so if they’re already got asses in the seats then what’s the point of actually trying to have solid food? This isn’t how all spots work, but if you see a place whose Instagram geotag has more pics of the scenery or people’s faces than actual food, then it might be a good idea to not head over there. And similarly, if someone is in front of you talking more about the scenery than the food, then this person is someone you don’t need in your life. Okay, they can remain in your life…but whenever they talk food, you just gotta give them one of these. On to the final and most important rule…
Rule #3: If the person mentions, “Yo, I think you’d dig this spot because (insert specific highlight that pertains to you)” then they have unlocked the final gate and officially entered The Circle of Trust.
This is the mark of a true friend.
“I know you’ll love this place because they have a taco with the same shredded Oaxacan cheese that you were raving about when you went to Los Tacos Arabes de Puebla a couple weeks back.”
When someone hits you with some type of deep-referenced callback that even YOU might have even forgot your damn self, THAT’S where the real trust is developed. This is indicative of someone who has taken the time to chop it up with you, build with you, and learn what you like in life. And in the tradition of the world’s greatest salespeople, they are selling the features that pertain to you because they’ve taken the time to ask the right questions and do the knowledge on the front end.
This is someone you can trust when it comes to food. This person and me. That’s it. Just us two. That’s all you need, really. Quality over quality. It’s a simple principle because it’s true.
Now really quickly let me get to these Yelp cornballs…
I don’t give a damn about your “Elite” status when all your reviews are lame and have no flavor nor wit and you spend more time waxing poetic about the chips and salsa than you do about the actual menu. I don’t care that you and your girlfriend go there every Tuesday and that you know the owners because they catered your neighbor’s boyfriend’s daughter’s birthday party.
TALK ABOUT THE FOOD, COTDAMMIT. AND USE YOUR WORDS.
I’m going to give you a few excerpts of reviews from my favorite taquero here near the crib (name withheld to prevent randoms from rolling up…but just hit me if you want to know the name):
“The meat is bomb and the burritos are good.” “Flavor of the meat is good.” “Asada, lingua, and adobada was awesome. Can pass on the carnitas next time. Free frijoles were super special.”
FAM, I HAVE NO IDEA WHO YOU ARE NOR WHAT THE WORDS “GOOD”, “AWESOME”, NOR “SUPER SPECIAL” MEAN TO YOU IN YOUR LIFE. AND THESE DESCRIPTORS TELL ME NOTHING USEFUL ABOUT THE MEAL THAT YOU JUST HAD. AND YOU WANT ME TO MAKE THE TREK OUT TO THIS PLACE NOW ON THE BACK OF THIS WEAK-ASS DEBRIEFING?! FOR REAL?! NAH, SON!!
Now if you’re going to step up to the plate and get your Yelp on, then THIS is the type of gospel that you should obligated to deliver to the congregation before you:
“The asada has a slight saltiness, a little smokiness that is subtle but just enough, and a proper thickness which allows it to stay juicy unlike most other taqueros where they keep turning the meat over on the plancha and by the time they throw it on a tortilla for you it’s crisped up or the fat has rendered into gristle. And the beans had a bay leaf and onion flavor that gets deep into your nose and haunts you long after you’ve left…AND these beans are free you say?! SHEEEEEEIT.”
Now just from reading this eloquent imaginary review from yours truly (and that was off the top of the dome!), I can tell exactly what kind of person I’m dealing with. A person I can trust. A person who is all about the details. And I can smell the food through the computer screen which means that not only am I hooked, but I’m also prolly gonna make it a point to make my way over there to this place as soon as is humanly possible.
There are people on Yelp dropping good gospel like this from time to time, but it’s only about 5% of what I see in my food search phone-scrolling adventures. Sometimes you gotta leave the art to the artists, and writing food reviews is not something meant for everyone just like how I spelled out for you why recommending food spots is not a sport built for all.
So what am I saying here? I don’t really know. My new glasses from Warby Parker just arrived late this afternoon (they finally make sizes for big-ass mascot heads like mine), and I’ve had these thoughts on my mind for the past couple of days, so I figured I’d sit down real quick after watching all 8 episodes of The Big Flower Fight on Netflix to put 2,000 words to paper in hopes of getting some new level of clarity both literally and figuratively.
And I can see clearly now. On both fronts.
You want the abbreviated version of today’s gospel?
Stop hanging out with people who have shitty taste in food.
Or if you have to still hang out with them, just stop going to the food spots they keep recommending to you.