Good grief...

Seven songs you need to hear during the five stages of grief (if you haven't already gargled motor oil) . . . (Please don't).

Nirvana: All Apologies
No, not the track that spins off of Nevermind. YouTube search the live version from MTV Unplugged. The essence of a stage glowing in a light purple and a cello accompanying the world's most successful Grunge band is overpowering. The only words you hear are coming from Cobain, with his suffering voice echoing live in front of Dave Grohl, who is barely tapping the drums and symbols that usually crash. The set is almost intimate, and performance: absolutely flawless.

Alkaline Trio: Blue in the Face
You need Matt Skiba's stressed lungs and acoustic powerchords to serenade your eardrums like a mourning violin at all times. No questions, no exceptions.

Matt Skiba: Next to you
Your brain is numb. His voice is Prozac, as well as his psychologically pleasing analogies that always have a rhyme in their step. "You blow my mind, like a Colt 45 every time."

Joy Division: Love Will Tear Us Apart
Melancholy 80's rock only fits. But the keyboards in this song blow a grim wind through you're already damaged being. It feels good.
* Matt Skiba also covered this when he played with his side project, Heavens. Hint.

Taproot: Mine
Perfect for when you hit the Anger Stage in your five level carosel of unwanted emotion. The first three irate powerchords from Mike DeWolf's segue into Stephen Richards's whisper, that transforms into audible snarling throughout the track. 
Swirl your boiling thoughts in 3:50 of this, because you're already going crazy.

Metallica: Nothing else matters (Orchestra version)
You'll need YouTube again.There's something sacred about hardcore bands doing rare, live performances with delicate instruments.

Brand New –Soco Amaretto Lime
You can literally see Jesse Lacey hunched over his acoustic, watching the world morph from a high school party to a melancholy post-grad celebration under an overpass in a sea of empty glass --until the track scratches out like a broken record. Prepare to cry your fucking eyes out. Even though you already are.

Five bonus tracks (since nothing else good is happening to you right now):

Mad World: Gary Jules

Echo and the Bunnymen: The Killing Moon

Regina Spektor: Samson

The Fray: How to Save a Life

The Church: Under the Milky Way Tonight

When finished, repeat playlist.


Lorene's Fish House Stands Alone

- Published in the Weekly Challenger - Thursday, July 22, 2010

St. Petersburg -- Despite the empty lots and buildings that line 22nd Street South, Lorene’s Fish House remains a beacon of hope for hungry souls in the Midtown area.

Besides the Sweet Bay Supermarket, China Star restaurant and snack-filled convenience stores, Lorene’s Fish House is one of the few places where locals can find food along the south side of 22nd Street. “If we weren’t here, they’d go way far off to get something to eat,” said Paris Lovett, Lorene’s nephew and employee of seven years.

This family-owned and operated restaurant has been dishing out soul food for nearly two decades and is an important part of Historic 22nd Street South. Fried chicken wings, fresh seafood sandwiches and garlic crabs have kept loyal eaters coming back for 17 years.

“When she first came here, she really started with the garlic crabs and fish sandwiches,” Lovett said.

My first meal in Midtown is one of Lorene’s catfish sandwiches. The crunch and scrunch of the soft, white roll against the crispy catfish meat gives a pleasing texture for the sandwich. The tender catfish is coated in golden-fried breadcrumbs. The salty sensation in the breadcrumb seasoning with an added touch of garlic is unlike any flavor found at more expensive eateries.

“She experimented with different seasonings ‘til she found the right one,” Lovett said.

The tartar sauce also gives Lorene’s sandwich a good kick. Her light, homemade concoction lets the actual flavor of tartar sauce blend with sandwich ingredients, instead of the overbearing explosion of tarter toothpaste that comes from processed sauce packets.

Lorene’s does not cater only to those who enjoy seafood. Chicken wing platters and pork chop dinners are also available and cooked to order.

Contrary to the miniature chicken drumsticks found in party platters and frozen dinners, each of Lorene’s wings come complete with the wingette and the drumstick. Imagine that -- all of the parts that make up an authentic chicken wing. Not only that, but the steamy, meat juices tease taste buds after the first bite through the thick, homemade batter.

Three of Lorene’s chicken wings can easily occupy 75 percent of a plastic foam tray, also packed with french fries and a side of ranch, for most meals.

“That ranch dressing is something serious,” said Ernie Doctor, a Midtown resident cycling along 22nd Street South on Memorial Day. Doctor has been coming to Lorene’s Fish House for years and knows a lot of people who do the same. “Lorene’s is probably the only one left on this strip,” he said. “Back in the day, this use to be a live street with restaurants all up and down here.”

The quaint atmosphere of the restaurant gives a feel for Lorene’s legacy on 22nd Street.

The painted mural on the side of the brick building that advertises Lorene’s Fish House is fading, yet stylish. Above the entrance, “Lorene’s” is painted in a quirky font, unlike the digital signs or neon lettering adopted by most modern businesses.

The inside of the restaurant has two small tables and chairs. White table settings display each menu item, written with different colored markers. The item signs are placed around the ordering window and front walls. One wall is decorated with family photographs, political images and a black-and-white portrait of Lorene. A small television provides entertainment for waiting customers and children.

“Sometimes Lorene lets kids by with price if they don’t have enough money,” said Bianca Lovett, Lorene’s niece. When school lets out, some kids venture to Lorene’s for an after-school snack, she said.

Most meal combinations cost no more than $10 at Lorene’s, even after the decision between all natural lemonade, fruit punch and tea. The smallest drink price is $1.50, while the largest size, a quart, costs only 50 cents more.

Lorene’s Fish House will be serving food at the community seafood festival in September, with the full menu up for grabs.

Connie's Keeps Geech's Gift Alive

St. Petersburg -- Billowing smoke blows across 16th Street South, masking my view of Frezell’s Car Wash and sparking my olfactory nerve. I can smell different forms of cooked pig in the air, while the thick, smoky aroma singes my nose – in a good way.

The fragrant smoke signals coming from Connie’s Bar-B-Que frequently subside, but still alert Midtown residents that there is at least one place left to get some killer barbeque, with a side of south St. Petersburg tradition.

“Customers always say, ‘so I heard you got the Geech sauce,’” said Melvin Hall, Connie’s son and business owner. “Everybody knows about it.”

Back in the day, Geech’s was the place to stop for some real old-fashioned barbeque. John “Geech” Black created a special mustard sauce to top his authentic dishes that kept customers around for years.

“My mom use to work with him a little bit,” Hall said. “He retired but she kept it going.”

Hall remembers the old days, when Geech’s thrived on a lively street. “On Friday, you couldn’t even get down 22nd Street,” he said. Hall said the road use to be packed with restaurants, night clubs and pool halls.

Although Geech’s Bar-B-Q Stand has vanished, much like everything else from the former 22nd Street South hubbub, a taste of its legacy still remains at Connie’s.

As I unwrap my first Connie’s chopped pork sandwich, I can see drips of the Geech sauce escaping from the wax paper already stained in bright yellow. The thin mustard sauce is tangy and sweet, but not overpowering, as if a jar of French’s Mustard had been squeezed onto my sandwich.

The sesame seed bun is thick and squishy. It provides the perfect stability for the globs of tender, shredded meat in the middle of the bun, soaked in the Geech. The juices do not soak through and ruin the bun like they do at other restaurants that drown everything in sauce, often leaving you with a dilapidated sandwich and need for a fork.

The caramelized kernels of the deep-fried corn on the cob are a perfect meal addition to cleanse your palet between helpings of pork.

The crinkle-cut french fries are made to order with a unique flavor kick. Fries are served golden brown with added salt. Cooked potato seeps out of the crispy edges and burns the roof of my mouth. It feels like money well spent.

The aftertaste of the fresh fries has the subtle flavor of funnel cake from a state fair.

“We touch ‘em up a little bit,” Hall said with a smile.

Connie’s has been serving home-cooked barbeque for 24 years and remains one of the only places to score some real barbeque in Midtown. The restaurant packs two cookers in case of a busy weekend and houses the last Ms. Pac-Man video game in town. Loyal staff members also add to Connie’s Bar-B-Que’s character.

“I love meeting different people and joking around with them,” said Geno Harrell, longtime employee. Harrell has been working at Connie’s Bar-B-Que for more than 15 years and learned different cooking techniques from Hall and his mother.

“I’ve been cookin’ all my life,” he said.

Although times have changed since Geech’s legacy and their 15 cent hot dogs, most meals at Connie’s cost $10 or less, unless you start picking at slabs of ribs. Drink prices run from 60 cents to a dollar.

Everything at Connie’s is homemade and fresh, with original recipes that have not changed since the beginning. Employees even grind the meat for the burgers and don’t use any preservatives in the food.

Hall works six days a week to guarantee good food for Midtown barbeque lovers. Connie’s is closed on Sunday, giving Hall a relief from the seven days he used to work.

“After awhile I said, what am I working seven days a week for? I’m cuttin’ down,” he said.

In his spare time, he likes to spend his days shooting pool, riding his motorcycle and hanging out with friends at Tampa clubs.

On the weekends, Connie’s serves late-night munchies until 1 a.m. instead of the usual 11 p.m.

Stop in and look for Hall behind the ordering window, wearing his brown apron and wide-rimmed glasses. He’ll tell you about his mom, the family business, and Connie’s famous rib sandwich. If it’s a slow day, he might sit with you while you soak your face in the Geech sauce, offer dating advice and listen to your story, too.