Greeting from Spokane, Washington
N 47° 39.5297’ W 117° 24.6509’ Elev. 1903 ft.
It’s been a few months since my last post. So, with your indulgence, I’m going to share the great and wonderful thing that has happened to me in the interim: I went to a movie …and dinner!
I saw The Wrecking Crew, a documentary about the 20-or-so guys (and Carol Kaye) who played backing tracks on virtually every other “hit” recording made during the ’60s. I hoped it would be an intimate look at the making of (if you’re over age 50) the “soundtrack of our lives.” It wasn’t.
The movie played at the Magic Lantern Theatre in Spokane, an “Art-house cinema, opened in 1931, showing documentaries & independent & foreign films on 2 screens.”
The theater itself is a bit of a throwback to the ’60s. The room we sat in, with a total of nine viewers, maxed out at 33 people. Thirty-three! I suspect that was counting the three chairs of orphan theatre seats and the five chairs of various provenance aligned against the back wall. There may’ve been 33 seats; I didn’t count them. It’s lovely, old-soul school venue. I liked that. They still served bottomless (metal) bowls of popcorn for $4! I liked that, too.
Movie-wise The Wrecking Crew was kind of a wreck. It had no timeline, no flow that I could find. While it was fascinating to see a the few odd interviews and a lot of still pictures of many, many great musicians, it was ultimately unfulfilling.
I hoped it would be more of a behind-the-scenes peek at the guys (and Carol Kaye) who played on everything from “The Pink Panther Theme” to “Last Train To Clarksville” to “Bernadette” to “The Beat Goes On” to “God Only Knows”. (I like this version of the last one much better.)
The Wrecking Crew (Carol called it “The Clique”) was a very, very, very busy group of musicians. Unfortunately, the movie consisted mostly of stuff you can find — often in more depth — on YouTube, and comprised little more than a weak compilation of readily available material.
Still, it felt good to cough up $8 to Denny Tedesco for his attempt to compile the material, kind of. And it’s always worthwhile to toss a buck at The Magic Lantern. Money well spent, to be sure.
Equally exciting was the après-movie dinner adventure to another throwback from the ‘60s: the Red Lion BBQ & Pub (Est. 1960).
I first became acquainted with the Red Lion BBQ in the latter-80’s back when it was really funky and dive-y. I was cajoled into playing in a blues band by my friend Carmine. Carmine is the best — my all-time favorite drummer — I’ve ever had the good fortune to work with. But I loathe the blues. Hate ‘em! Passionately!! It’s a genre shamelessly hijacked and played abominably by white-guy hacks ad infinitum, like myself. It’s a really boring genre.
Still, I was lucky. The band wanted a keyboard player and I wanted to work with a former Disneyland balloon boy/salesman. Kismet ensued. I played with them long enough to learn I really, really hate the blues.
(To make ‘60s connections with the movie even weirder: Carmine was formerly a sideman/percussionist for The Beach Boys, albeit that was in the ’70s. Fun, fun, fun.)
Life is a tangled web that can’t be undone, it seems, especially when there’s an asshole like me ever-ready to provide a reminder. I suspect it’s akin to standing on Main Street U.S.A., the lowliest Cast Member on the lot, desperately trying to untangle some hopelessly interwoven string to the blue Mickey Mouse balloon some dimwit from Des Plaines wants, while battling Fresh Gale-level Santa Ana winds. In my dreams I would be there, of course, in my best Nelson Muntz voice, yelling “Haw, Haw.” A tangled web, indeed.
I was married when I played at the Red Lion. Band members got half-priced food. It was the only time my wife ever waited up for me to get home from work — if she knew I was packin’ ribs. That’s quite an endorsement.
I ordered the Red Lion Super Combo ($31.95/feeds four) for my two friends and me. It’s a choice of three meats: Pork Tenderloin, Beef Tri-Tip, Ribs, Chicken or Salmon, that comes with Fried Bread, Onion Rings and two sides. I got ribs, ribs and chicken for the meats, and BBQ Beans and Potato Salad for the sides; other side offerings are French Fries, Cole Slaw and Corn-on-the-Cob (seasonal).
The plate arrived with four onion rings at the top of the stack. This disappointed me. They may’ve been very good onion rings if they were hot and fresh. But I’ve been ruined by Cheddars.
The Super Combo’s half-dozen fried bread were a cross between a good biscuit and a bad donut. I’ll admit fried bread, or Indian bread, is not easily done. Executed correctly, it’s like a funnel cake, with the airiness of a donut and the texture of a slightly failed-risen roll. Red Lion didn’t do fried bread bad but, well … Where’s the cornbread, Mama? I want my cornbread!
The four onion rings and fried bread were piled atop half of half of a BBQ chicken (I think) and what looked to be a rack-worth’s of pork ribs.
Having experienced RudeRibs (see Cheddars link), I knew I’d been spoiled forever when I took the first bite. It didn’t melt, didn’t succumb to the tooth, didn’t readily give up its God-pork goodness. They required gnawing, followed by unnecessary chewing. I’m not a Gnawer. Chewing hurts my feelings. My internal voice said: “These ribs were better before I’d experienced RudeRibs.” And so it goes.
The chicken, however, was so profoundly perfect that my friends and I thought we’d found the best damn chicken this side of heaven. It was … perfect. Never have I had better barbecued chicken. Ever! Anywhere! Swoon.
Moving on, the potato salad was very good. Tasted homemade. The baked beans much more so. Perfect. But that chicken …the chicken …oh, my, god.
I wouldn’t recommend seeing “The Wrecking Crew” unless you’re completely unfamiliar with the prodigious body of work the guys (and Carol Kaye) accomplished; I would direct you to YouTube.
I would, however, highly recommend slathering your face with obscene amounts of Red Lion BBQ chicken should the opportunity ever arise. You won’t regret it.
Red Lion BBQ & Pub
126 North Division, Spokane, Washington