This wasn’t just a casual conversation at a bar, or a football game, or in front of the family at Sunday dinner.
My cousin was also my doctor. Before that, his Dad–my uncle Oscar–was my doctor.
I like to keep it in the family.
Yes, it was a little embarrassing when it came time to…turn your head and cough and stuff. But it was rather comforting to know that you were in good hands, so to speak.
My cousin the doctor was a thorough guy who wouldn’t give you an aspirin without a complete physical. So when he told me I needed a colonoscopy, I knew I needed to heed his advice.
I went to the colonoscopy clinic in Baltimore, Maryland. It was a friendly place. The doctor seemed like he knew what he was doing, the nurses were nice, and I felt as comfortable as I could, under the circumstances.
They asked me to take off my clothes, and put on one of those robes, the kind that are open in the back. Can’t they just give you a normal robe, the kind that belts up in the front? The other way is humiliating.
So I put on the open-ass robe, and they asked me to lie down on the operating table. They covered me with a white blanket, and one of the nurses started talking to me.
“How are you? Where are you from? Are you warm enough? Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” It was just pleasant small talk. We chatted for a little while, and then she said…
“I think I recognize your voice!”
I had a radio show in Baltimore for about eight years. I played jazz on Sunday mornings. It was the big Adult Contemporary station in town (Elton John, Olivia Newton John, Celine Dion) and the program director had asked me if I wanted to do a jazz show on Sunday mornings.
I had never done radio. I told him so, and he said it didn’t matter. I gotta give it to the guy—Gary Balaban—he saw something I didn’t, and he stayed with it for years.
I got a lot of nasty phone calls in the beginning, folks bitchin’ about not hearing Michael Bolton and whatnot. But I just kept on doing my thing.
The radio station gave me a free hand–they let me play whatever I wanted to play. So I did. I’d play Louis Armstrong, and then some Dave Grusin. I’d play Miles Davis and then segue into Marc Antoine. I’d play Herb Alpert and follow it up with some Ella Fitzgerald. I would also give local musicians I liked some airtime. I stuttered and stammered when I first started, and then I got into the flow.
I started interviewing artists, as well as playing music. Big-name, small-name, no-name, I just loved talking about music.
The radio station never paid me. When I started, I wasn’t very good. So I never asked them about the money. It wasn’t until I’d been doing it for years that they started paying me…fifty bucks a show. For a four-hour gig.
It wasn’t about the money, obviously. I was starting to love it. I would have continued to do it for nothing.
It’s hard to believe, but we started getting really good ratings. Record companies started sending me CDs. Managers were calling, pushing their artists. Promoters were trying to get their records played.
But all I wanted to do was play the music that I liked, talk to the artists I enjoyed, promote the musicians I thought worthy. And that’s what I did, for 8 years. I was on the air every Sunday. When I went on tour, I’d pre-record the show. The Cool Jazz Café. Folks were tuning in. It was taking off.
So, it wasn’t a huge surprise when the nurse told me she recognized my voice.
“Are you Slim Man?”
“Yes I am.”
She yelled out…
“You have the radio show on Sundays. I know you!”
I looked at her and said…
“You’re about to know me a whole lot better.”
It was weird, yes. But what are you gonna do? Jump up off the table and run out of the place, bare-ass hanging out? They put the anesthesia mask over my face…
Next thing I knew, I was in the recovery room. The nurse was smiling at me. She said…
“Everything looks good.”
It sounded a little strange, the way she said it. I looked at her and said…
“I guess this makes us friends.”
The literal translation of fra diavolo is “from the devil.” The expression is used to mean a dish that’s spicy.
This dish is usually made with lobster. I like lobster, but it’s a pain in the ass—like a colonoscopy.
Lobster’s expensive, hard to cook, and hard to clean up. It’s hard to crack the claws and the shells.
I was in Paris once and they had lotte on the menu. I had no idea what it was. The waiter told me it was “the poor-man’s lobster.” I felt like cracking him one. But I ordered it and loved it.
Here in the good ol’ USA, they call lotte “monkfish.” It’s one of the ugliest fishes you’ll ever see. But man, does it taste good. It has a taste and a texture similar to lobster, and it’s a whole lot cheaper, and a whole lot easier to deal with.
Make sure to use monkfish filets. Remove all the gray and tan membranes, and cut it up into bite-size chunks.
I love this dish!
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sliced garlic (about 3 or 4 cloves, skin removed)
4 tablespoons minced shallots (1 small shallot, skin removed)
Crushed red pepper to taste (it’s “fra diavolo”–from the devil–so make it spicy!)
1 cup white wine
One 28 ounce can (3 and ½ cups) of San Marzano or Italian tomatoes, smooshed up, yellow cores removed
1/2 cup of basil–a small handful
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 pound monkfish filet, about 2 cups, membranes removed, chopped into cubes
If you are going to put this over pasta, grab a large pot, fill it with the coldest water you gots, and put it on the highest heat you gots.
As the water starts to heat up, let’s cook our monkfish sauce.
Put the olive oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven, or a large pan.
Turn the heat to medium. Let the olive oil heat up for 2 minutes.
Add the fish. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the fish on one side for two minutes. Then turn over. Cook for two more minutes on the other side.
Remove the fish from the pan, and put on a plate.
Add the garlic and shallots and crushed red pepper (to taste) to the pan. Let them cook for about three minutes, stirring every minute or so.
Then add the wine. Turn up the heat to medium-high, and let the wine cook off for three minutes or so. Stir frequently.
Then add the tomatoes. Grab your basil, and a pair of scissors, and snip the basil leaves into small pieces, right into the sauce. Then add the oregano. Turn the heat to high. When the tomatoes come to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for fifteen minutes.
NOW FOR THE PASTA…
When the water comes to a full boil, add about 3 tablespoons of Kosher salt.
Then add a pound of linguine.
Stir. Stir it often.
When the pasta is al dente, firm to the bite, drain it, and put it in a large bowl.
Drizzle the pasta with a tablespoon of olive oil, and toss.
Pour 2 cups of the monkfish sauce over the pasta and mix gently.
Dish it up! Put some pasta in a plate, add a spoonful or two of sauce on top, and garnish with a basil leaf or two. And…