A Barrom Brawl: Digital Jukeboxes vs. CD Jukeboxes

Touch Tunes Digital JukeboxGone are the days where you can say, “I love that bar. It’s got a great jukebox.” Now, most bars have the same freaking jukebox.

There’s an award or two hanging above the “jukebox” of my favorite bar. That’s right. Hops & Barleys won Best Jukebox in NEPA in the Weekender’s Readers Choice Awards a time or two. Or more. But, I originally put jukebox in quotes here because the jukebox that won those awards is no longer there. I miss the old, REAL, jukebox. It’s replacement is not very cool At all. Here are reasons why I don’t like digital jukeboxes as much as the old ones that played CDs. Hops joined the digital jukebox bandwagon and I still love the place, but I long for old one.

Ah, nostalgia.

I remember going to Hops for the first time, and loving the jukebox. In fact, when I turned 21 and started going out to bars, I almost enjoyed seeing the selection of songs as much as the beers on tap. A bar’s jukebox in a way defined the bar, created its typical atmosphere, drew a certain crowd. The jukebox at Hops had the token Bon Jovi. It even had a standards variety CD that had Happy Birthday and the Star Spangled Banner. I knew my jukebox picks by heart:

  • Tom Petty’s “Don’t Do Me Like That” (from Greatest Hits) was 2006.

  • CCR’s “Down on the Corner” (from Chronicle) was 2808.

For those reasons and more, I wish bars still kept their own jukeboxes where they selected the songs/albums from the vending company from which they rented the machine. Sure, digital jukeboxes save a little room and cost less to make/ship/store/maintain, but I think there are more negative aspects of digital jukeboxes.

cd jukebox

I miss these. Dearly.

Reasons why I don’t care too much for digital jukeboxes:

1. No full albums

You may at first say, “Wow! Digital jukeboxes are great. You can search for ANYTHING!” Yes, you can. Mostly. However, even on an album full of hits, like the White album, two or three songs will show up. If you want a deep cut, you pay more. No. This doesn’t work for me. First of all, album cuts never really got airplay. So, being able to experience them opens you up to new songs. If you don’t even KNOW what other songs are there other than the hits, you would NEVER know to search for them. So, in a real jukebox, you may flip to a CD and see the whole list. Maybe one time, you’ll stray from the norm and play something from the album you didn’t know, or forgot about. With the digital jukeboxes, you get to choose from a few songs when you touch CD cover on the screen. Not cool.

2. Play next? No. Wait your turn, jerk!

The reason I am writing this post today is because I almost cried last night. I felt like I was on a Fox News TV debate (only I was the only head talking) as I proclaimed my distaste for the Touch Tunes digital jukebox at Hops. It was my graduation and I was celebrating. I arrived at 8:00 p.m. and the bar was not packed at all. I put $5 in. I think that got me 18-20 songs. I started with Tom Petty’s “Don’t Do Me Like That” and ended with Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” In the middle, Joe and I picked songs from Violent Femmes, Bon Jovi, O.A.R, Gin Blossoms, John Mellencamp and others. But, the starting and ending with a Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers song was my little trick so I knew when my songs began and ended. I’ve been doing that 10 years, no matter where I go. (Because coincidentally, nearly every single jukebox I have encountered always had Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits.)

And that leads me to the worst button known to mankind (next to that big, red detonation button on a nuclear bomb) – PLAY NEXT. In the four hours we were at Hops, we heard two of my songs. TWO.

People continually hit PLAY NEXT. I spent $5. I should be able to hear my songs. Why should someone else’s song get played before mine? I think that money-making tactic is a little unfair. If the beer line is long at a concert, I never shout, “Hey! I’ll pay you $1 extra – $11 total – for this Miller Lite if you serve me NEXT!”

We are taught since nursery school to wait in line for our turn. Old jukeboxes played songs in a row. None of this PLAY NEXT option nonsense. I left at midnight, still wanting to stay to hear my songs. It was not to get my $5 worth. It was because it was a special night and I wanted to create my own little soundtrack. All the impatient play nexters won.

3. No spontaneity & a need for ginko biloba. No more randomness.

Everyone has their few favorite songs and artists. But, when faced with making jukebox decisions with digital jukeboxes, you must know exactly what you are looking for. Sure, if I want to hear Tom Petty, I can hit the “P” button and scroll through the albums and songs. However, what if I am not sure what I want to hear? I have to make mental notes of all the people I like and search for them. It is very hard to just FIND something at random because to look through the entire jukebox would mean scrolling through an entire freaking alphabet. How time consuming!

In the old days, like me, I had my fave songs memorized, but I enjoyed flipping through the pages and seeing what the jukebox had to offer. So often, I would accidentally stumble upon an artist I liked but always forgot about. Case in point, I love “Fat Bottom Girls” from Queen, but I always forget about Queen, so I never hit “Q” on the digital jukebox. However, if I am casually flipping through a real jukebox, I may see it and say, “Oh wow! Queen! I forgot.”

There is no element of surprise. No hidden nuggets. No spontaneity. Digital jukeboxes have nothing on the oldies. People always say “browse” the web. It’s a term, yeah, but it’s not true. People really “search” the web. Unless you know exactly where you want to go and directly type in the address or use a bookmark, you search the web. This is the same thing for digital jukeboxes. You can’t just randomly run into a cool sale item on a clearance rack… nope. You need to look for something specifically. Ugh.

4. Super Search does not mean you can hear ANYTHING you want

I won’t name names, but there are a few NEPA bars that program their Touch Tunes digital jukeboxes to exclude certain genres. For example, one bar in a “bad” neighborhood blocked rap. Another classier bar blocked hair metal. So, even though at its heart it seems as if the Super Search function opens bar patrons to a world of music, it doesn’t always work that way. In fact, this does in a way make it similar to the real jukeboxes where the albums are what is there, and that’s that – the owner can control what CDs are in a real jukebox, just as a bar owner can choose to exclude a song or an entire genre in his own playlist on his digital jukebox. I do happen to like this feature, however I list this here as a negative because people have the misconception that you can find anything. Seriously. Do a search at some bars and you will find a very popular band may not show up at all. That could crush or frustrate users who are under the illusion they can choose any song.

These are four reasons I don’t like digital jukeboxes. I could seriously go on, but I think I’ve said enough. I get that they make more money for the bar because they are based on some great sales techniques. But, let’s not forget that places that have bars probably make most of their money from food and beverages — however, it’s the great atmosphere that keeps people also coming back. It truly makes me sad that four hours can go by and I don’t hear more than two of my songs. I don’t find the same joy in picking my songs because I have to search for songs and then always end up playing the same ones because under the pressure I can’t always remember all the bands that I have ever liked. I much prefer to scroll through and pick the best songs from a set selection in a real jukebox.

You know what NEPA bar still has a good jukebox? Dugan’s in Luzerne. I know a few wonderful people go there specifically for the jukebox. It is a reflection on the owner and on the crowd. It’s great little place with good food, good beer selection, and even though I said it, I’ll say it again – a good jukebox.

Other Hops and Barley jukebox memories to show you how much that old machine meant to me:

1999- I met a past long-term boyfriend at the jukebox. I mean, it ended up not working, but there were years of memories and that’s where we met.

2001- An old review I wrote of Jessica Andrews, Who I Am CD, where I worked in hanging out at Hops and the jukebox.

2003 – I reviewed Hops on a then-new local review site, Barmesier. My review mentioned the killer jukebox.

2007 – An interview with Doug Cosmo Clifford, CCR drummer, where I pay tribute to the old Hops jukebox.


Wilkes University MFA Graduation — Bittersweet.

In January 2010, I completed the MFA in creative writing from Wilkes. Since there is no winter ceremony, my cohorts and I had to wait until the May 2010 graduation. We all joked yesterday that it was as if we were milking this graduation thing. In fact, some of my acquaintances thought I maybe went back for more. “Didn’t you graduate in January,” they would ask. In a way, I guess we did get two celebrations out of the deal since we had a banquet at the January creative writing residency at Wilkes!

At any rate, the MFA is certainly a great accomplishment. I could not be more proud of my friends and fellow cohorts. It’s been an incredible journey, but it’s not over. The great thing about the creative writing program at Wilkes is that it is a true creative writing community where alumni always come back to visit at residencies. I will always be part of this program.

Here are a few pictures from yesterday’s ceremony:

Wilkes MFA January 2010

7 of the 14 graduating MFAs walked at the ceremony.

Wilkes MFA graduation Donna and Mom


Presenting this week at May’s Cocktails & Connections Event: Blogging for Business

cocktails and connections logo

Cocktails and Connections is a monthly mixer for NEPA professionals.

A few months ago, Catherine Shafer of CDS Creative invited me to present on blogging for business at May’s Cocktails & Connections. Cocktails and Connections is a monthly networking event held at the Woodlands. Professionals can get together to relax, network and learn. Pretty cool concept.

May’s event is slated for this Tuesday, the 25th and runs from 6:00-8:00 – my presentation is at 6:30 and will last less than an hour.

My blogging for business presentation will cover topics such as:

  • Why every business needs to have a blog
  • How to set up a blog
  • What you should and shouldn’t blog about
  • How to promote a blog
  • Blogging best practices

The event has a Facebook page. For information or to RSVP, you can visit the Cocktails and Connections page here.


A Philly-born Bachelorette Presents: The Philadelphia Cream Cheese Steak

The Philadelphia Cream Cheese Steak Recipe - Finished Sandwich

Dinner was delicious. Not sure if cholesterol levels agree with taste buds, but it's OK. I won't eat for a few days.

This is the story about a hungry girl with limited options.

This is the story about a hungry girl who reinvented the official (or is it unofficial) sandwich of her birthplace.

This is the story about a girl who actually is no longer hungry because she just ate and is blogging about an hour ago, when she was still a very hungry girl whose cupboards had it worse than Old Mother Hubbard.

So, here goes the story of my Philadelphia Cheese Steak Recipe:

I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed of myself. I was pretty hungry when I got home from work (and tanning) today. My boyfriend is coming over, but not until later (gym first – I hope he worked out some for me – you’ll see why). I couldn’t wait. I was hungry.

I explored my options:

  • Cereal. I have lots of good kinds: Cap’n Crunch. Chocolate Cheerios. Frosted Flakes. Cupcake Pebbles. Whole Grain Cheerios. The problem is that there is no milk. Nope. Tossed that curdled carton out on trash day.
  • Leftover Chinese food. The small amount of leftover pork fried rice was tempting, but since I never enjoy reheated sweet-n-sour chicken, I opted not to eat it. I did not throw away, though. It was just trash day so my can is empty and I don’t want that to sit there all week. I just got out cat litter smell from upstairs, haha.
  • Johnsonville Kielbasa. This was very appealing, but I’d rather save that for when I have mashed potatoes and other veggies. You know. A real meal.

The rest of the freezer and fridge was: ravioli from three months ago that I am afraid to open to throw away but too connected to the Tupperware it is in to throw the whole thing away. Frozen waffles and French Toast. Ice Cream. Condiments. And then… I saw it!

STEAK-UMS!

Then, I remembered the last time Joe and I made Philly cheesesteaks was less than a month ago, so the jar of sauce and jar of sweet peppers I saw on the fridge door was likely still good. And, I also had cheese! Processed cheese, but cheese! (I waste too much food so unless I am certain I will eat it, I no longer by fresh meat and cheese.)

I was thrilled for my Philly cheese steak. I started cooking. Then, it hit me.

No bread. No rolls. No two slices of anything my meat mixture could come between. How do you make a Philly cheese steak without a roll?

That’s when it also hit me that I DID indeed have something bread-like. I had bought a bunch of breakfast food for my three-day writer’s retreat last month. (Oh yeah – that’s why I have so many boxes of cereal and so many boxes of frozen breakfast food). On that Central PA shopping trip, I picked up some Thomas’ mini-bagels and something new, Thomas’ Bagel Thins. I had leftovers of everything and the everything flavor Bagel Thins were the item thing I finished. Sunday evening, after Iron Man 2, Joe and I went to Wegman’s to raid the Mediterranean Bar and we also walked up the bread aisle. The Bagel Thins were out in plain sight so I picked up a pack.

Why can’t a cheese steak go on a bagel? I saw no reason. As I looked at the bag, I realized that bagel and cream cheese are a big Philly thing. And, Thomas’ are made near Philly. Ha! I chuckled to myself that I am making a really Philly-inspired meal.

Oh. My. God. Cream. Cheese. CREAM CHEESE!

I had inadvertently created a new version of the Philadelphia Cheese Steak. A Philadelphia Cheese Steak served on a bagel with cream cheese. Playing of the Wheel of Fortune Before and After puzzle style, the name I devised for my cheese steak recipe became:

The Philadelphia Cream Cheese Steak

Holy freakin’ moly. I started taking pictures of the ingredients, and even made (AND ATE) a second sandwich so I could share. And, so I could taste that heavenly concoction again.

To replicate my Philadelphia Cheese Steak recipe, which was made me two sandwiches, you need the following ingredients and supplies:

  • An apartment with a stove. Utilities must be paid up so said stove gets hot.
  • Box of flat, frozen, red sheets that turn into brown meat when warmed up, or as most people call them, Steak-Ums (or your favorite brand)
  • Jar of Tallarico’s brand sweet peppers (no relation)
  • Jar of Tallarico’s brand steak sauce (no relation, however this jar is related to the jar mentioned above)
  • Thomas’ Brand Bagel Thins in the ‘everything’ flavor
  • Tub of Philadelphia Cream Cheese (using your favorite brand here would be a mortal sin because this recipe is about Philly)
  • A few slices of American cheese. I used Borden’s individually-wrapped slices, but I prefer real deli cheese.
  • A frying pan, a spatula/flipper type thing and a cream cheese knife (we’re not using it for butter, so we’re changing its name)
  • Salt and pepper
Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Tallarico Brand Sauce

Kraft's Philadelphia Cream Cheese & Tallarico's sauce and peppers are three ingredients you'll need.

Thomas Bagel Things

Thomas brand Bagel Thins in 'everything' is one thing you'll need, too.

To replicate my Philadelphia Cheese Steak recipe, you need to take the following steps:

  • While pan is heating up, you can put towels in dryer like I did. Otherwise, use this time to get your stuff together.
  • Break apart 4-6 slabs of meat (which would be 8-12 since two are always stuck together between the waxyish paper) and toss in pan.
  • Before meat starts to cook, also put in a few forkfuls of the sweet peppers. This way, they get heated up and a little soft.
  • Add salt and pepper while meat and peppers are cooking. Continue stirring.
  • I like my meat to get a little brown when I make cheese steaks, so just cook until it’s to your liking.
  • Drain grease if you want to. I forgot.
  • Add enough steak sauce it coats all the meat when stirred, but NOT so much that it is saucy. Let sauce get warmed up. Stir mixture a little.
  • Remove pan from heat and then push all steak together so it is even. Top with cheese, covering every last section. Cover pan with lid or larger plate so that the captured heat perfectly melts the cheese.
  • While cheese is getting oozy, toast your Bagel Thin. Since these are indeed thin, use a mid-level setting as not to make this crunchy.
  • When bagel is toasted, spread cream cheese over one side of the bagel.
  • Lift lid of the pan to see your wonderful concoction. You can leave the cheese on top, or mix it up a bit. Either way, cheese will be in every bite. I usually mix it up a bit.
  • Place about 1 turner-thing full of steak onto the cream cheese. More if necessary, but don’t overfill too much. You should have enough meat for two bagels. Top with top of bagel.
  • Slice and serve. Maybe with a pickle and fries, but I had no side dish.
  • Lastly, enjoy.
Philly Cheesesteak on a bagel with cream cheese

Look at that ooey-gooey goodness!

Bagel sandwich with cheeseteak

Another view of the bagel, this time, topped.

You can modify this as you like. This is merely a guide to what I did. One suggestion though: DO NOT USE VELVEETA OR EASY CHEESE. REAL CHEESE STEAKS USE REAL CHEESE, usually American or Provolone. Go easy on the cream cheese because it will melt a bit. Otherwise, the sandwich wasn’t messy at all. Just a few peppers fell out.

After eating two, I can report that they were both delicious. And I’m not saying it because I made it. I’m saying that because there is something euphoric about cream cheese that makes all things right in the world. It can make anything taste good. I learned to like crab after eating crab and cream cheese dip. I can withstand the heat of jalapeno poppers because of cream cheese. It’s like a helper condiment.

And in this case, it helped enhance the awesomeness of homemade Philadelphia cheese steaks.

I know that Dunkin’ Donuts has a steak bagel breakfast sandwich, but I think this on-a-whim hunger-induced idea is pretty creative. If something else exists like it, I wasn’t aware. But, maybe I will look around. Either way, it was new to me and I hope it is new to you, too!

Disclaimer: I am in no way responsible for increased cholesterol, jeans not fitting, or any other adverse affects to health and wellness.

Hidden bonus: I actually realized that with Bagel Thins instead of a big hoagie roll, you cut back on some carbs. I mean, the calories are there with everything else, but if you are cutting back on carbs, this is a good alternative to thick bread.

Did you try this? Let me know what you think!

My friend Jeff once made a bacon cheesecake that was fantastic, but I think I’d draw the line at steak and cream cheese with a bagel.

P.S. Many a good Philly cheese steaks come with onions. Those who know me, know I love fried onions. So why, you ask, did my sandwich not have onions. Why, you ask, did I also not make the pierogies I had in the freeze? Because this is what happened the last time I tried to keep onions.

Sprouting onions in the cupboard

Last month, I found these when I went to get an oven mitt. Yep. I cook THAT much. I think I used one.

Yep. Being single and living a lone does not work well for keeping things around in bulk. Even my frozen food gets freezer burn.


Lots to Share, So Much So, I Haven’t Had Time to Blog About It…

The past several months have been busy. Frankly, I am embarrassed that every few months I make one of these apology posts about the few months prior being busy. Tonight marks the last class of my first semester as an adjunct professor at Wilkes. I am quite proud of the students and am blogging about that experience at PR & Social Media Class Blog.This has perhaps been the best ‘part-time job’ I’ve had, and yet, with all the effort to put into designing the class and creating the initial lesson plans, assignments, etc., it felt like a second full-time job — and I loved every minute of it.

So, since January, life has been an adjustment. It seemed just a year ago, while still busy, I had the time alone to blog endlessly. Now, with the freelance writing picking up again (I took a little break during the MFA), the adjunct gig, doing speaking engagements locally, and spending time with an awesome guy – my blogging time seemed to disappear.

I am going to try to get better at this, write and pre-schedule a few posts at a time. So, in the next few weeks, you can read about the following:

-My former roommate’s wedding and trip to Lancaster

-My Solid Cactus Boot Camp presentations with Cory Brin, Mandy Boyle and Scott Sanfillippo, who by the way just blogged about some videos we just made for Solid Cactus eCommerce.

-More about my PR & Social Media class at Wilkes

-My 6th semi-annual creative writing retreat with my friends from the Wilkes Creative Writing program

-The return of my recurring feature, Talented People I Know – on my list to be featured is Jenny Hill & Dan Waber of Paper Kite Press, Kaylie Jones, Rick Fellinger and Scott Carey.

And, I am also looking to revamp by personal website, DonnaTalarico.com. I mistakenly published a new template that did not work with images I already had in posts. My website/blog over there appears broken. Ooopsie. But, when that is complete, I will have sections for Creative Writing, Freelance Writing and Social Media. This will be my more professional blog where I will share my creative writing insight and social media and eCommerce thoughts. I still want a personal blog to share silly things separate from the professional one, so I will do my best to manage Daily Dose o Donna.

So, what was the point of this post? I mean, after all, it was just a blog post of things I want to write blog posts about. Writing things down helps me commit to them. Also, it shows you, dear reader (<– that was almost a palindrome), that I am still here.

Until next time….


Moments of Wit & Wisdom: Catsup flavored chips?

As seen on my Facebook wall…. Another photo-caption I’d like to share – this time, taken in my home office. I heard some rustling, but I was deep into a draft (OK – I was Tweeting!), so didn’t turn my head right away, but when I did, I made a dash for my orange-monkey-skinned iPhone and snapped this baby. Sorry for the blurriness.

Here’s the post:

It’s harder to let your cat go back in to the bag than to let it out.

My cat loves barbecue chips. That’s decent bait

cat out of the bag

Spectra was having a bad hair day.

And to think… I only sold one greeting cart so far! (Oatmeal Studios)


What’s wrong with giving a double cheeseburger a little Vitamin D? (Or, why I wanted to eat lunch in the tanning bed.)

scary hour glass

If time keepers were always this scary, maybe I'd pay more attenting to ticking seconds.

I get an hour for lunch. Most days, I eat at our convenient cafe, Saguaro’s, which is located in the Solid Cactus lobby. Well, I order from there, and then usually eat at my desk. I have a picture of the chili dog incident to prove it. I still think I see mustard sometimes, if I push down really hard on the Q, W, A, or, S.

For a few reasons, I’ve tried to step away from my desk for lunch:

1) My eyes need a freakin’ break. I have very sensitive eyes and know this. Yet, I stare at a screen for eight hours at work and then usually, 8 hours at home. My eye doctor scolds me for not giving my eyes a break and has suggested special glasses for computer use, but I am embarrassed of how I look in glasses, and in fact, hardly wear sunglasses. But that’s another story. Sometimes, tears just roll down my cheek at work. So, stepping away for an hour will help in a small way.

2) See intro. I spilled a chili dog on my keyboard. And a tuna sandwich. At least when I drop the string cheese, it doesn’t leave a crumb. Before you ask why I must eat over my keyboard, I will have you know that I have a small desk, which has a phone and dual monitors, and a keyboard. That takes up 2/3 of my desk. The only open space has the filing cabinet underneath, while the chair hole is on the computer side. So, to eat at my desk, I must lean all the way over to take bites and my body just doesn’t move like that. So, stepping away from my desk will help me eat more comfortably.

3) I overextend myself sometimes, and taking a break out of the office will allow me to run those errands like picking up paperwork or prescriptions, making phone calls for interviews for my freelance writing assignments, going tanning, picking up cat litter, and other things that sometimes I can’t always squeeze in after 5:00. I want to make better use of my time, so actually taking a lunch break can help me do a little more, like read those books I blogged about last post.

doublecheeseburger

This was the one thing I couldn't fit into my lunch break.

Number 3 was the case for earlier today. I was picking up some materials from the Wilkes creative writing office. There was stand-still traffic on River Street because of UGI utility work. So, my plan to tan on lunch after my quick errand was already looking pale. I picked up my papers and headed through Wilkes-Barre another way to return to work, hoping to stop at Burger King. Then, I realized it was only 1:30.

I did some math. Tanning takes 10 minutes – add 5 for signing in and changing in and out of clothes. I could still be back at work by 2:00 or just after 2:00. I decided to go tanning.I made my way to Hollywood Tans in Wilkes-Barre, where I have a three-month package. I pretended I was a CIA agent with privilege access to a top secret biomedical research lab when I confirmed I was me by place my index finger on the illuminated keypad. I grabbed my towel from the nice, tan young man and as I headed to Booth 14, my bladder mentioned it was ready to make a deposit.

I walked all the way back up front to see if there was a rest room. There was. I went into the rest room, set down my things, and noticed there were no paper towels. No prob. I have a towel. Then, I saw there was also no toilet paper – and no refills to be found. I went back up from to ask the guy for help. The toilet paper was in a box on the top shelf of a storage room, so it took a bit to wrangle down. Then, after my allotted five minutes for sign-in and dressing were more than over, I just started to relieve myself in the tanning salon bathroom.

By the time I exited the tanning booth, it was 2:07. I got back to work at 2:15.

But before I got back to work, my bladder’s cellmate, Stomach, reminded me that I was hungry. There was no way I had time to stop, so I told him that he’d be fed after work my way of martini and tapas. However, I asked a question, which was supposed to be the point of this long blog post.

Are you allowed to eat in tanning booths?

And, no, I don’t mean the lay-down kind. The stand-up kind at Hollywood Tan.

hollywood tanning bed

It may look like a time capsule, but I wonder if it can save time on lunch break - tan while you eat.

Has ANYONE tried this?

Has any time-crunched, multitasking, errand-running-on-lunch break person seeking more color ever stood there, stark naked, lathered in hemp-infused bronzer eating a double cheeseburger?

Of course, you could only hold on to one of the provided-for-your-convenience gymnastic rings, but still. And, my eyes would be closed, but visually-impaired people don’t need to see to eat, so this is not an impossible feat.  The thought made me laugh. Plus, good way to ensure your lunch doesn’t get too cold.

But heck. If I don’t take care of my eyes and don’t break away from the screen, I could end up eating my double cheeseburger in the dark one day.