Tuesday, December 31


i lived,
i laughed,
i loved,
i lost,
i found,
i cooked,
i ate;
i did so F*ing much my whole head hurts just recollecting about it.
i have so many overlapping pieces of this multidimensional puzzle,
i'm building upward and collapsing inward
and expanding outward and moving forward
and behaving untoward but never as a coward...
i'm afraid that's not how it happens.
this is IT.
the last one of the year.
the fond farewell and the big goodbye and a short kiss to the long goodnight,
except the lips i miss are seventy miles away,
and the night is icy and loud.
outside, there are explosions in the sky,
and inside the house, the dog is snoring,
and inside my heart, there's a cast-iron ferrous furnace blasting and beating
and bleating and bellowing and forging new resolve for the new year.
the spirit and memory of this year is sure to weigh heavily on the hammers
that'll blacksmith a whole new set of circumstances and coincidences
for twenty-twenty.
i am grateful for the people who loved me back,
and i am grateful for the time i have been given.
thanks for reading,
thanks for caring;
never quiet, never soft.....


snow day!!!
AMPERSAND TATTOO was not a hotbed of fun and excitement, 
but i was a whole helluva lot warmer there than 
at the Folk Life & Liberty Fortress
where the power kept failing over and over again,
and the dark of the day was invading all corners of the ol' haunted house.
that's cool.
a snow day means anything can happen.
like, there could be a giant bonfire of leftover christmas boxes and papers.
(and there was)
there could be shoveling mountains of  plow-packed snow from both ends 
of my J-shaped driveway.
(and there was)
there might even be a fresh hot batch of DUMPS ON MY FACE.
(and there was)
F* yes, friends. check the teleport:
that's right, b!tches-
i went all in on 21 jackpottin' powerful homemade expert vegan dumplings,
and FIVE motherF*ing SAUUUUUUUUCES!!!
the interiors of the dumplings are SO good...
charred shredded cabbage, blackened on a HOT pan, with a dab of sesame oil.
plus finely minced red onion, green onion, carrot, cilantro, and mushrooms.
AND there's a lotta microplaned garlic and grated skin-on organic ginger, too.
and you gotta get ground mustard and black pepper and sichuan red pepper
and rice vinegar and tamari and GPOP, too.
i don't measure anything for this part.
exxxtra filling is great,. because now i can make exxxtra dumplings, y'know?
the cabbage has bigger flavor when it's charred. 
i kept it in wedges throughout the process.
the mushrooms were dry-fried in a big pan before i added them to a food processor
with a quarter of a red onion, the bottom half of a bunch of scallions, 
a whole carrot, and three cloves of garlic, where i pulsed it that up to a crumbly consistency.
did i also add that trader joe's umami mushroom powder?
F* yeah i did.
then i added it all together in the hot pan, and let it sizzle until i added all those spices.
if i'm taking a hot dump to eleven, it's gotta have ALLLLL the hottness in there.
...and these do.
i made the filling the night before, 
and let it hang out with fresh cilantro and scallion in the fridge until i was ready.
the wrappers are easy, but also pretty powerful.
in my stand mixer i combined:
1 cup + 2 T king arthur ap flour;
1 T dried crushed shallot;
1 T black sesame seeds;
1/4 tsp sea salt;
1 T minced green onion;
1/3 cup + warm water-
and i beat that up with a dough hook and got it beaten up into a shiny ball of dough.
that took a minute, and a little more water, too.
y'gotta cover it with plastic and rest the dough for like half an hour at least.
then, roll it out on a well-floured surface, and cut out all the circles.
mine are 3". and like i mentioned, there were 21. that's a lot.
but also, that's what you want.
less than eleven dumps make you a loser.
fill 'em with a spoonful of that good stuff, fold 'em over, and pinch the edges together,
then crimp 'em and give 'em a crescent bend.
nobody likes an ugly dumpling.
ugly ducklings have their purpose, but unattractive dumplings are NOT invited.
i fried mine in a blend of very hot sesame and olive oil- like, a teaspoon of each.
and after arranging them in 3 rows in a 10" nonstick pan, 
i let them sizzle and sear just a baby bit, like two minutes, 
before i added a slurry of hot water and flour- 
a spoonful of flour in a few tablespoons of liquid,
and i dumped that into the screaming-hot pan, lidded it, 
and let the water absorb and disappear, 
but with the doughy thickening doing some extra bulking-up 
along the sides of my little pouches.
i gave them a flip, and i added some red chili oil, 
and gave them another 'nother couple minutes to get browned up even MORE.
i was not about to let the last dumplings of 2019 be weak ones, neighbors.
look at that crispiness!
i garnished them with fresh ripped leaves of cilantro,
and pea shoots,
and scallion sprankles.
look at the textures. look at the golden goodness. look at the extra bottom thiccc jauns.
i impressed myself.
so, you already know that too much is the right amount, right?
what about those FIVE separate sexxxy SAUCES?!
if you can't appreciate the diversity and intensity 
and the over-the-top optimization available to each bite of each dumpling
then you are probably an A*-hole.
and that's no joke.
you wanna know about each one?
okay. here we go:
heat up about half a cup of vegetable oil to like 350 degrees.
in a small ceramic bowl, combine:
black pepper;
crushed red pepper;
sichuan peppercorns;
whole dried red chili, partially crushed;
ground korean red chili flakes;
sesame seeds;
all of that, shaken in by eye,
with whatever proportions you feel might taste best.
i mean, you know what you like-
and with about half a cup of hot oil poured over the whole thing,
you will toast everything up while cooling it off fairly quickly-
then add a drop of sesame oil to kick it into high gear,
and also, maybe a touch of hot paprika for flavor and color
it's more nutty than hot, 
and it's F*ing delicious and red and awesome all at once.
this one is F*ing tiiiiiiiight AF.
i didn't need a ton, but i made more than enough-
1/3 cup of tamari;
1 T sugar;
1 T brown sugar;
a dash of fennel, dried chili, dried ginger, a pinch of peri-peri chili spice,
a drop of lime juice, black pepper and a just few sichuan peppercorns,
all slowwwww-simmered until it's thiccc.
y'all think you be knowin'- but y'all don't be knowin'.
now you do kinda know a little... but until you make it, 
you can't truly appreciate how expert it is.
a tablespoon of peanut butter;
two teaspoons of tamari;
a drop of toasted sesame oil;
a dash of white and black sesame seeds;
1/4" grated fresh ginger;
1 tsp rice vinegar;
1 tsp agave;
a dash of chili flake;
a pinch of Garlic Powder... 
it's very rich.
it's very good.
it goes great with the sweet soy,
and even better with the next sauce:
5 tsp sriracha;
1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds;
1/2 tsp rice vinegar;
2 drops liquid smoke;
a shake of GPOP;
two shakes of habanero ho'sauce;
a pinch of powdered sugar;
1/2 tsp tamari;
a drop or two of sesame oil.
but not offensive or intrusive or distracting.
it's just a little zap of extra-tangy spice, and that's nicey-nice.
also, after all that, there's also the old standby.
the original.
the site-specific situationally-appropriate SAUCE that started it all.
3 T tamari;
1 T rice vinegar;
1 tsp powdered sugar;
1 tsp agave;
1/4 tsp sesame oil;
GPOP, ground mustard, black pepper.
1 clove grated garlic;
1 small bud of grated ginger;
3-4 crushed sichuan peppercorns;
a scoop of toasted sesame seeds;
a pinch of fresh green onion;
a few drops of ho'sauce-
stirred -up and allowed to marinate all damned day.
this one gets better with time.
and when it is DUMPLING TIME,
this is what you need to make it expert o'clock.
2019 is just about done.
and it's another snow day.
it's wet and cold and icy and snowy and it looks beautiful and terrible outside.
it's still coming down.
i'm thinking about this year.
i'm thinking about my whole life.
i'm thinking about love.
i'm thinking about business.
i'm thinking about the future.
i'm thinking about right now.
i'm thinking too much, and it's making me tired.
i'm grateful for all the enormous events this year provided.
i'm grateful for the old people and the new people and the newest person,
and i'm positively electrified with the prospect of a better tomorrow.
i've got more to say about all of this.
and i will write it down before we start a whole new year.
but right now i have to work off some of that dumpling feast with 
an hour or two of snow removal.
snow man, snow man, yeah that's me;

Monday, December 30


breezy got me a little mini cake pan
and it is CUTE.
i made some mini cakes in it because that is the only thing it can be used for.
they're really tasty, and also really cute.
when i flipped them out of the little mini cake cups
i immediately noticed that they do sorta look just a little teentsy weentsy
itty-bitty tiny mini baby bit like buttholes.
i'm not sayin;......i'm just sayin'.
and they're not any less cute which makes me excited.
baby bundts!!
that's adorable.
lemon walnut fluffy babies!!!
i'll brighten winter with citrus whenever i want, and none of you can tell me otherwise.
got it?
alright, then....look:

i ate way too many of them.
i don't regret it.
walnuts are good for you.
lemons are great for you.
cake is always invited.
all together, a real winner was freshly-baked and enjoyed by myself,
and eventually by a group of  hungry clients,
and also two newish vegans who were coincidentally getting tattooed at the studio,
and even dylan and nate
although one of them is mildly allergic.
that's how good they looked.
y'all ever flirt with discomfort to enjoy a fluffy sponge of joy?
that's how we do it. 
i was inspired by the cuteness of the pan, man.
i HAD to employ it in some winter morning therapy.
every time i make sense out of making up a recipe
i feel just a touch more equipped to handle the day.
and it's yesterday's tomorrow, so i at least endured it.
you wanna make some light and fluffy magic cakes?
i will tell you whatcha gotta do:
preheat your oven to 350℉
get yourself a mini-muffin tin or one of these redheaded-hottness-supplied pans
in a medium mixing bowl,
cream together:
1/2 cup sugar;
1/4 tsp salt;
1 tsp vanilla;
1/4 tsp lemon extract;
1/2 lemon zest;
1/2 lemon juice
1/4 cup (4 T) softened vegan butter.
get that all creamy and smooth, then stir in:
2 T plain vegan yogurt;
1 cup king arthur ap flour;
1 tsp baking powder;
1/2 tsp baking soda;
1/2 cup nondairy milk;
1/2 cup chopped walnuts.
whip that until it's fluffy, and spoon it evenly into the 24 compartments of your pan.
bake them for 15ish+ minutes or until a tester comes away clean,
and let 'em cool before you ice 'em.
that's just ka-powdered sugar, lemon juice, and a touch of vanilla.
did i hit 'em with a bunch of lemon zest sprankles?
what am i?
an A*-hole?
i know what's up, and it's MORE zest.
we're having a snow day in the woodsly goodness.
i wonder if my neighbors will be around.
if they're not, i'm going to upcycle a whole lot of cardboard,
and have a raging-hot short-lived fire.
those are the best when it's snowy.
i suppose i'll get the chance to tattoo some pickup-truckin' neckheads in boots today.
they love driving on bad roads.
and they love to get reg-tattz.
personally, i love dumplings.
i think i'll be sure to make some of those at some point today.
the year is ending, and i think taking some dumps to the face is in order.
so, slick roads and sick tatts and slick dumplings and sick custom red chili oil
are all where the day seems to be headed.
i already lost power twice today.
that's encouraging.
why not end the year in the dark;
never quiet, never soft.....


how many vacationers have come into the studio while we're tattooing,
because they think we're the pizza place?
.......a F*ing LOT.
and how many of them leave realllllly quickly, after making the 'OH!' noise?
and what number of those folks close the door behind them
after they realize their mistake
and do the head-down shuffle-step skedaddle twelve feet further down the porch?
that'd be almost none of them.
it isn't it winter, and obviously cold, 
and also pretty stoopid to not know to close a door?
uh huh.
i'm not saying these are bad people, 
but i am suggesting they're bad at being people.
maybe they're just so psyched about pizza 
that they don't know what to do with themselves.
i've been there, bro. i see you.
but i also know how doors work.
just sayin'.

AMPERSAND TATTOO has a sign that says 'no pizza here',
because some folks don't even recognize their mistake 
until they're all the way inside the studio and see us very clearly NOT making pizza.
that's no joke-
we have no pizza there.
and we actually love pizza but, i mean, c'mon.
there've been at least twenty people who effed that up this weekend.
if you've been by the shop, you already know that there are GIANT signs 
on the windows that say AMPERSAND TATTOO,
and there's a sign on the door, too.
so shoutouts to illiterates and pizza-obsessed no-attention-payers, i guess.
meanwhile i'm out here doing those phone-bill tattz.
like when you gotta pay that phone bill, these are the ones that make that possible.
dead guy tributes.
we do that.
how about matchy tattz for home-tatt getters out in a real studio for the first time?
we do that, too.
will i fill up a day with baby tattoos and do each one like i'm excited?
well a grand don't ever come for free, 
and those pizza pursuers don't ever accidentally order
a large tattoo with a side of garlic knots from us and forget all about the spot next door.
so until money starts falling into my wallet for talking sh!t and baking cake,
it's tatty-boi bambam time every time.
oh, and now that i consider it:
based on the amount of impact we can hear from bodies and tables colliding 
with the shared interior wall between us and the pizza joint,
those muther'uckers ARE that psyched about pizza.
they're suplexing their pepperonis together about it.
i want our clients to start bodyslamming each other into the walls about it.
after they're cleaned off and wrapped up, of course.
no need to spread that home-tat 'itis onto the framed art, man.
for realsies.
i might F* around and make a pizza and tattoo myself
then sail my whole body straight through the window of the pizza spot, 
butt-A* and face first, 
and leave their damned door open behind me on the way to the hospital.
you don't know me;

Sunday, December 29


you wanna get a hand tattoo?
i got you.
you want it to be an apocalypse gas mask?
i got you.
you want A-bomb mushroom clouds reflected in the eyes?
yo, i GOT you.

hand tattz.
eh, it's just another day at AMPERSAND TATTOO.
you need some extremities decorated?
we're extremely ready;


does food taste better if the fork says vegan on it?
potatoes, hot and crisp, out of a 460 degree oven already taste good.
now imagine you're using a vegan fork, bro.
you like it:

because i don't even care.
too much is the right amount,
and more potatoes is supposedly the key to more joy in your life.
curry powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, turmeric, smoked paprika,
Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, salt and olive oil...
tossed together for a big ol' late-december breakfast.
i'll take some solid gold skin-on homeboyfries anyday.
on the ones- i roasted them in a single layer on parchment
and once they were fully cooked,
i drizzled a little MORE olive oil on the top of 'em to sizzle and crisp 'em up.
that's how you get 'em right.
and when they're right?
that's when the whole day veers away from the teetering totter
of a razor's edge of epic failure and back onto solid ground.
...for a few hours at least.
and when you plate 'em with scallion and cilantro sprankles,
there's almost something that tastes like hope in your heart.

they really are pretty great, though.
they were so perfectly spiced and seasoned
that i didn't even need any smoky sriracha ketchup or nothin'.
potatoes and spices and that's it.
spuds so good,
even a couple of clients yesterday brought up how good they be lookin'.
and y'all can act like they don't be lookin'.....
but they BE LOOKIN'...
that's a thing: my potatoes be lookin'.
and the folks who appreciate AMPERSAND TATTOO have noticed it.
but, like, for real-
nate's clients commented on the visual deliciousness.
i s'pose that's kind of the reason to take the picture in the first place.
they can't have any, though.
my plates aren't for just anybody.
and of course the one person i'd love to impress probably didn't get a glimpse at all.
that's how it is, man.
because you know i had somebody in mind when i made 'em,
and i was using that Xmas-gifty fork from her while i ate 'em.
that jabby-jammer does make them taste better, btw.
because there's love in each tine, and fittingly,
they're sharp and stabby just like us.
now if only i could figure out how to be so F*ing adept at anything else.
2020 is coming in hot,
and i'm still tattooing like i'm living in 1999.
sure, i can cook my A* off;
but where's the next-level mastery of interpersonal relations?
i need a SAGA.
some lightning-striking viking sh!t.
or something like that,
preferably with a side of potatoes and this sentimental stabber, too;
never quiet, never soft.....

Friday, December 27


if you don't know, you're fired.
pizza is dope.
pizza is expert.
pizza is what's up.
but if you're really-real,
and you've been naughty enough to get coal,
then you're on the right path,
because new haven-style coal-fired APIZZA
is the power and the glory and the way and the light and the truth.
...and that's a fact.

shouts to breezy for coming through with the sentimental nostalgia
and the allegiance and the dedication for this southern connecticut apizza pie guy.
that's AH-BEETZ, for those of you pronouncing it ah-peet-sah.
get it right.
there's a lotta history, and it's all right there in the book.
i come from a place where pizza is a way of life,
and i think it's sweet she provided me with a long-distance reconnect with that
rich italian-american history from my birthplace.
i want to pass on that love and that passion and that process to all the kids.
i want pizza partners, pizza pals, pizza princes and princesses.
i want white pie and sicilian and deep-dish and flatbread.
i want double dough and stuffed crust and fully-loaded extra-larges.
i LOVE pizza,
and i love christmas when it works out for everybody.
and it's F*ing awesome to get good gifts from someone who knows you.
i am grateful for the intimacy behind the items.
that means a whole lot more than just some wrapped-up stuff.
there's weather coming.
i mean, it's winter.
so that's expected.
will i make pizza tonight?
i think it's only right.
for real, i've got the shirt.
i've got the dough.
i've got the sauce.
i've got the fondness and the feelings and the hunger.
pizza is the only other redhead i even like.
and it's a whole lot crustier than the other one.
i dunno.
it's all a F*ing mess.
every day, every night, everywhere-
here and there and in-between.
a blanket of snow might at least make it quiet outside,
while it's a stormswept raging ugly sloppy typhoon in my head;


this is dope:

if you can get it customized, you usually should.
it just makes a good thing even better.
one fork is a weird present.
but one custom fork is molto expert.
and i'm gonna eat the hell outta some stuff with this one, no doubt.
when my sisters and i were little,
my dad used to ask, aloud, to the household:
"what's daddy's favorite thing to do?"
and we'd respond, in unison, as we'd been trained to: "hit kids!"
and he'd say: "and then what's he do?"
and we'd say: "LAUGH!!"
then he'd ask one more question:
"...and then what?"
and we'd recite the rehearsed line: "hit 'em some MORE!"
i'm not writing that to condemn my childhood,
i'm writing it because i LOVE krampus.
that's 100% his thing.
maybe my dad was part krampus, that's all i'm suggesting.
check it:
we out here whoopin' on them kids.
for the record-
i haven't given out any spankings in my life.
not to any disobedient children, anyway.
a naughty adult, maybe-
but all the slaps i've ever handed out were consensual, anyway.
here's the one that gave me big feelings, though:
that's me.
and my eyes are still wet about it.
you ever listen to that song landslide by fleetwood mac,
but when it was way better because smashing pumpkins covered it?
that's what my insides feel like when i look at this little ol' santaman.
how emo is that?
probably too much.
i just think about the happiest one,
the littlest one,
and about all the crazy chaos everywhere but in that little heart,
and how could papa make it better?
i don't have an answer.
i just keep humming along-
can i handle the seasons of my life?
nqns .....


too much is the right amount.
at Xmas, it needs to go to XI.
that's no joke.
rules is rules.
a little goes a long way, but a lot goes the distance.
and if you say you like chocolate?
i'm getting you fancy chocolate wherever i go,
because i'm thinking of you everywhere i am.
that's just what it is.
if you mention that you might need new socks?
well, if you're older than twelve, socks ARE an acceptable crimbo gift.
if you're little, you should ask for toys. don't be lame.
but anyway, you said might need a new pair for your feet?
then get ready for slipper socks, camp socks, ankle socks, and fancy marled winter socks.
i have a theory-
the way you give gifts is the way you'd like to receive them, too.
so, with that in mind, imagine how pleased i was to open up this:

hallowe'en!! dinosaurs! dragons! bobotrons! bunnie babies!
nature! steampunk! skulls!
and a patterned rollie-pin of bull F*ing terriers?!
they see me rollin'......they bakin'....
breezy did the thing the way you're supposed to.
a cute rolling pin was in my stocking.
and i was psyched that now i can make dinosaur sugar cookies, for sure.
that was just a little tease because a whole dang set was waiting under the tree.
i mean, for real, these laser-cuttin' woodworkers are expert.
and that wasn't the only woodgrain goodness i got, either.
i also got some additions to the triceratops collection, too-

shoutouts to a whole triceratops family.
if you like something, then more of it is usually better.
and if you give something, there should be a positive intention behind it.
there's no gift with less life and love in it than an obligation gift.
like, just skip it, if you're not into it.
on the ones,
i got good stuff.
considerate and intentional and informed gifts.
i felt very lucky on the day.
and i won't forget that;
never quiet, never soft.....

Thursday, December 26


and on christmas eve,
after returning from connecticut,
and finishing up the last bits of wrapping and writing,
and knowing that i had a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call ahead of me, which i somehow
managed to wake up an hour ahead of
like every kid naturally would because who can sleep when santa's coming?
i still felt like something was missing...
and then i realized that what i was craving was a fully-loaded christmas miracle
delivered into my mutha-'ucking mouth.
so, i fired up my oven,
and i started a batch of dough,
and i caramelized some onions,
and steamed some broccoli,
and i sliced some two-tone baby sweet tomatoes,
and i dry-fried some mushrooms,
and minced my daiya mozzarella, (rules is rules)
and saturated my homemade vegan sausage with smoked paprika and black pepper,
and grabbed the crushed tomatoes and the fried garlic sprankles,
and eventually i was really feeling the holiday season all through the house.
with the help of 485 luscious fahrenheit degrees,
and a few stones,
and the accrued wisdom of thousands of pies,
i had what i wanted:

with that crispy crunchy crrrrrrrrust-
you need king arthur bread flour and you need diastatic malt powder,
and the rest is negotiable...
the table runner is a gift from harvest.
the bandana bobot napkin is from maple.
i waited no seconds to employ them in my pizza experience.
i'm a sloppy sentimental mess.
i'll admit that.
i have too many F*ing feelings about everything.
and i love my people.
ALL of 'em across all of the whole damn expanse of new england.
i'm all stoopid about it, and i'll probably make another 'nother pizza about it.
hell, breezy got me an expert APIZZA shirt.
i'm gonna wear it until it falls off.
if you know, you know,
and if you're good, you're good.
i'm all full of emotions about every aspect of my life.
luckily, i can just go clean up and rearrange AMPERSAND TATTOO,
and get stressed about that instead of everything else.
changes and changes and changes everywhere,
and pizza to hold it all together.
that's what winter after christmas feels like today;
never quiet, never soft.....


my day was great.
the gifts i received were thoughtful.
the time i spanned was beautiful.
the feelings i shared were happy and genuine.
everybody had a good time, and it was merry and bright.
Xmas is for kids,
and that was where we were the most successful
even crabtree was well-adjusted.
happy people, big and small,
and sleepy adults across the days and miles.
that's how it unfolded.
i appreciated everyone, and i felt appreciated,
and we all did alright at doing it right.
that's the best holiday spirit and memory anybody could hope for.
i'm intentionally withholding the photojournalism,
but i'm fully expressing the who-ville tripling i felt in my heart.
i am grateful for the time i was given,
and for the jammies and the joy and the christmas cheer;