Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Introducing the Dilano

OK. You saw it here first...for real...the introduction of a brand-new coffeehouse term. I made up this word, and I think it's simply smashing. Besides, this site is called Whole Bean, and I have a reputation to maintain over here.

Have you noticed as of late that Starbucks has started placing little green stirrers with fancy tops on the counter? They're almost like regular stirrers, but they serve a dual purpose: not only can they be used as genuine stirrers for tall cups (grande and venti size cups are too deep, mind you), but they can also be used to seal the little hole through which you sip your coffee. This is extremely useful when you're carrying a hot cup of coffee (or two) in your car. No spills, no mess. Truly, an inspired invention on the part of SBUX.

Well, I have yet to hear these stirrers called by any specific name, so I've coined my own term. I shall hereafter refer to them as "dilanos". "Dilano" sounds like "Milano", which is, of course, a modern northern Italian city. Since there are so many Italian espresso roasts and references out there in the coffee world, "dilano" seems quite appropriate in this context. Plus, the word sort of rolls off the tongue, as in, "Excuse me, Donatella, but would you please grab a few dilanos for the car?" I totally like this word, but of course, I'm partial.

So the next time you visit Starbucks (especially if you use the drive-thru) for a to-go cup of your favorite premium brew, ask for a dilano. Try it, and see what happens. At first, the barista might be confused, but over time, this term will catch on and make its way into common coffee parlance. As Men's Wearhouse founder George Zimmer would say, "I guarantee it."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Nagel Ladies

If you were alive in the 1980's, you must have known of Patrick Nagel. Even if you didn't know his name, you almost certainly knew his work. The stylish Nagel Ladies became pop culture icons in that decade and can still be seen displayed on the windows of salons across America.

Patrick Nagel's technique was somewhat systematic. He began with an art-deco themed image, then removed elements which he felt were unnecessary. The result was typically a highly stylized, linear, dark-haired female figure, often dressed in various shades of purple and blue. His images were heavily influenced by Japanese woodblock prints. Probably the most popular Nagel image was the one which graced the cover of the Duran Duran album Rio. The look of the Nagel Ladies was always savvy and seductive.

What is not widely known or remembered about Patrick Nagel is what happened to him. As it turns out, Nagel was found dead in his car of a heart attack in 1984 at the age of 39, immediately after participating in a 15-minute aerobic event to raise funds for the American Heart Association. To say he was in his prime would be an understatement. His images were everywhere at that time.

Whenever I see a Nagel print, whether it is on a magazine cover, in a gallery exhibit, or on the window of a salon, I am immediately transported back to the 1980's. In that stellar era of The Me Generation, Big Hair, Ronald Reagan, and Valley Girls, the Nagel Ladies were a breed apart. They represented a certain polish and sophistication which began to emerge in the 1980's after two decades of letting our collective hair down.

So the next time you head in for a manicure at the nail salon, take a look at the prints on the window and give a quick wink in the direction of Patrick Nagel. He put a little pizazz in our lives when we needed it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Goodbye, Soul Man

I was saddened to hear yesterday of the passing of soul music legend Isaac Hayes. Isaac was a key player in the Memphis soul music scene of the early 1970's. I will forever recall the first time I heard "Theme from Shaft", sitting in a Lamar Avenue grocery store parking lot eating my lunch while on break from my minimum-wage cashier job. For a time during my teenage years in Memphis, you couldn't turn around without hearing the name Isaac Hayes.

My father's friend Perry Allen was Isaac's business manager during the glory days of Hot Buttered Soul and Black Moses. Perry hosted his own jazz/blues radio show on WDIA and was a local authority on the Memphis soul and R&B music community. He would bring me promo copies of Isaac's albums in big yellow envelopes. In those days, it was a bit unusual for a white kid to listen to Isaac Hayes albums, but I guess I was hooked on Isaac from the beginning. His music, lyrics, and unique sound could only have been born in Memphis.

Some of Isaac Hayes' best vocals can be heard on the Black Moses album, a double set released in 1971, in the heyday of the "Memphis Sound". Isaac's deep baritone voice had a way of working its way into your psyche and staying there. Years later, I could still hear in my mind the languorous line in "Ike's Rap" that goes, "If some chap would rip you off me, I wouldn't be responsible for my actions thereafter."

Ah, Isaac. You were truly one of a kind. We will miss you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Dreaded Check Engine Light

I own a 1998 BMW 328i convertible. It's a wonderful car most of the time, and I truly enjoy driving it with the top down and the music cranking. But for the last few years, it's been playing a rather nasty trick on me. Lately, it's gotten out of control.

Many BMW's, mine included, are equipped with an on-board computer that tells you when even the slightest thing is wrong with the car -- a failed brake light, low windshield washer fluid, low coolant, a tree frog one mile ahead -- that sort of thing. But in addition to this computer (which, as a fellow owner once told me, "does not lie") the car is equipped with the dreaded Check Engine light.

I hate Check Engine lights. I know they serve some kind of useful purpose, but I recall one day when my rented Chevrolet broke down on the outbound Kennedy Expressway express lanes (limited access, of course) at 5:00 PM on a rather chilly day in Chicago. I was on my way to O'Hare Airport to catch a flight back to Atlanta, and many motorists were quite upset with me. But one fellow, who looked suspiciously like Woody Allen, stopped to help. When he saw the Check Engine light on, he said in a voice loud enough to be heard in Milwaukee, "Oh, no! It's got one-a-dem idiot lights!" Somehow, we got the thing running, and I actually made my flight.

My BMW takes a different approach. Each year, metropolitan Atlanta requires that all vehicles built since the Stone Age have an annual emission inspection performed a few weeks before the license is renewed. If the Check Engine light is illuminated, the vehicle will not pass inspection, no way, no how. Of course, my car, sensing that an emission inspection was imminent, has for the last four or five years (except this year) fired off its Check Engine light about two weeks before the license was due to expire, sending me once again to Steve at German Motor Works, who diligently scans the possible causes and generally ends up replacing the gas cap. BMW's tire of their gas caps very easily, or so it seems.

But this time, as I said, it has been different. This time, the Check Engine light has collaborated with the Airbag Sensor warning light and the omniscient on-board computer to make my life a true service hell. I finally took the car to the dealer, who methodically performed all the tasks required to turn the lights and warnings off. And that worked fine until the next day, when the on-board computer fired up a false warning for low coolant (again) and, you guessed it, the Check Engine light snapped on, not to be outdone by the computer. Oh, and by the way, the dealer replaced the gas cap -- this is my third or fourth one, I can't remember exactly which.

The car is now back in the shop, and I'm driving a loaner Honda Accord. I don't know much about Hondas, but I'm pretty sure I saw a Check Engine light on the dash. I may cover it with a piece of black tape tomorrow.