Monthly Archives: September 2011

A brush with fame and the downfall of a funk legend

My first major brush with fame occurred in the early 1970s when I was working as a waitress at Nickerson Farms, one of those themed family restaurants commonly found along the interstate. It was about 8:30 p.m., just a half hour before closing, so we were all eager for our customers to finish eating and be on their way. Of course, as is often the case, two new customers appeared at the door and seated themselves at a table near the entrance.

We all groaned, then flipped a coin to see who had to serve them. I forget who won (or lost) the toss, but it wasn’t me so I went about cleaning up the counters and filling condiments for the next day. Two minutes later, the waitress who won the toss, came dancing back to the counter with a huge grin on her face. To say we were surprised was an understatement. We expected the usual whine of “let’s get this over with”.

Turns out the two guys were not just Joe Schmo off the highway. Nope. It was Sly. Yep, that Sly — as in Sly and the Family Stone…as in “Hot Fun in the Summertime” and “Dance to the Music.” Of course, we’d all changed our tune about leaving and instead were each taking turns ambling to the store at the front of the restaurant, shooting furtive sidelong glances at this guy whose music had touched our souls.

I’ve played this card numerous times over the past 35 plus years, telling my story of A NIGHT WITH SLY….which really was more like an hour of ogling this celebrity, who turned out to be just a regular, friendly guy. But still….we were in the same room. And he smiled and waved at all of us as he left the restaurant.

Fast forward to 2011: Today’s news includes a sad story about Sly, who is now homeless and living in a camper in Los Angeles. Homeless. It’s so difficult to believe that the onetime Motown wonder, who as recently as four years ago was living a lavish life in Napa Valley. Blame it on an all-too-common tale of a drug habit and poor financial management.

Despite his current state of affairs, he claims he likes living in his camper and envisions a comeback, saying, “Let these guys know, like Lady Gaga, let me come in, just let me come in and pay me if you like it.”

Well hey, if he keeps working at it, he might just get his wish. I can see it now. Lady Gaga in her plastic bubble dress and Sly in one of his 60s/70sleopard-print jumpsuits, Beatle boots and flashy cape….singing a remake of “Dance to the Music.”


Pieman strikes again…this time, “Sinking Dog Pie”

Pieman was back at it again yesterday….he was in the kitchen at least half of the day — first making a pie, then meatloaf, bread and rolls. Lest you think we wish to pack on the pounds, think again. This is all HIS stuff and it has to last him a week. Well, that’s not quite the truth. I do eat the bread and sometimes the meatloaf, which he tells me I will love this time because he added some “good” stuff (i.e. veggies and herbs) to it.

But, I digress. Let’s go back to the pie. I walked into the kitchen and found him covered in flour. The dog was on the floor, waiting for the first crumb to drop his way. Of course, I bit. “Whatcha making?” To which he answered, “Bread crumb pie number 2.” I kid you not. This is the truth. I think I scowled. He pointed at his pie cookbook (a Christmas gift courtesy of daughter number 2 who shares his love of pie).

My husband is a champion at skirting the issue and answering a question with a non-answer, so I figured this was not the entire truth. Sigh. Here we go. Okay, here’s how the conversation went:

M: What’s in it?
F: Bread crumbs.
M: That’s it? Just bread crumbs?
F: Yep.
M: Liar. No one — not even you — would eat a pie made solely of bread crumbs.
F. Welllll…okay, it has some brown sugar and eggs. And some other stuff.

Of course. “Some other stuff” is always part of the equation, but hey, who am I to argue? He bakes pie like I bake cookies. A little bit of this and a little bit of that, and pretty soon you have a completely different product than that appearing in the cookbook.

I watched for awhile, then left the room, returning when he asked me to open the oven so he could pop in his pie. Later, when it came out of the oven, I peered at it. Yep. It was a pie. Kind of resembled a shoofly pie.

Sinking Dog Pie

Later on, as we rode the tandem around town, he expounded on his latest pie creation. Turns out he added pecans and chocolate. The sinking dog part? Take a look…look very closely because the dogs sunk.

And now, for those of you who want to try baking your very own “Sinking Dog Pie”, here’s the recipe from the master. Keep in mind you may have to change the name if you don’t own dog-shaped cookie cutters. (Just for the record, I did not buy them. Dog, after all, is MAN”S best friend.)

Happy baking!

Sinking Dog Pie

This pie is so simple it makes me sick.  Wait until you have some dried up bread. Instead of tossing it, make a pie from it. After all add sugar to anything and it tastes good.

2 c. (ball park figure) bread crumbs
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 egg whites
2 cups of milk
Toss in some cocoa
Toss in some pecan pieces

Add bread crumbs, cocoa and pecan pieces to the pie crust

Cover the crumbs with the brown sugar

Beat the egg whites and add milk.

Pour the egg-milk mixture over the crumbs and brown sugar

Then, add cinnamon and whatever spices you enjoy.

For a real kick, place a drop of almond flavoring to the mix.

*Concerning the sinking dog, I had too much crust remaining. So, I grabbed a cookie cutter that happened to be in the shape of a dog and placed four on the top of the pie. As the pie baked, the shapes sunk into the pie.

Bake for 35 minutes at 350.

A letter to my dad

Note: My dad, Richard Pannabecker, died nearly 14 years ago. He was a biologist, a college professor for more than 30 years. Like most kids, I thought my dad had all the answers. Most of the time, he had a pretty good one and if not, he’d help me find a solution. A few weeks after he died, I went out for a run. I was just coming back from knee surgery so I was moving pretty slowly. I remember suddenly stopping mid-stride. I couldn’t take another step. I sat on the curb and cried, the reality of his death finally hitting me. Now, all these years later, not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. It occurred to me that I could write him some letters. It’s probably selfish, but if it serves no other purpose, it’ll make me feel better.

Dear Dad,

Do you remember when I was learning to drive? You insisted that I had to learn how to drive a manual and an automatic, so we took a trip to Lima in the VW. I was just beginning to get the rhythm of shifting gears smoothly. Idling in neutral and shifting into first was still a challenge. We were stopped at the light at the intersection of Bluelick and 65. My stomach was churning, because I was sure I couldn’t get the dang car to move forward up that slight slope.

My dad and me, circa early 1970s

Sure enough, it stalled the first time. I tried again, but the car began rolling backward and I rolled gently into the car behind us. You jumped out and checked to be sure there was no damage, then opened the driver’s door and told me to “Get over” in a less-than-gentle tone. I, of course, burst into tears as you eased us forward and drove to a flat clearing.

I think you actually apologized and then insisted that I start driving again. I begged you to drive the rest of the way home, but you refused. Something about getting back on the bike after falling off. Then I think you made a crack about the guy behind me being too close anyway, so he probably deserved it.

We switched seats again and had an uneventful trip home. Soon after that, I suddenly realized I’d mastered the whole starting on a hill thing, and I never had a problem with it again. I still prefer a manual, but haven’t had one since we ditched our Festiva.

But learning to drive didn’t end there. You also made sure I knew how to change a tire and check the oil. Of course, since I’ve never since had to change a tire….but that’s why we have AAA, right? You made sure I knew the value of that, too.

Did I ever thank you for all the things you taught me? Probably not, but I’ll bet you knew it. You were a pretty smart guy.

Thanks anyway.