Talking Springsteen, ‘SNL’ and Syracuse with blogger Phil Prehn

I’ll always jump at the chance for a live chat with somebody whose blog I follow.

So when Phil Prehn emailed during this bitter Syracuse winter to set up a coffee get-together at Cafe Kubal, up James Street from my dear wife Karen and I’s Little Bitty in the Syracuse city neighborhood of Eastwood, I said sure thing.

Prehn is the mind behind the WordPress blog Still Racing in the Street. Bruce Springsteen fans will know that song title well. Indeed, my relationship with the guy started on a Bruce-induced level when I was the music writer for the big daily, and he was a Boss fan of like mind who wasn’t shy to comment by sending me emails and leaving his thoughts on my online offerings in a thoughtful, smart, kind manner.

I liked Phil. I started remarking about his insight and reading his blog and sending him emails. And so it has gone, since I’ve started this blog, and he changed jobs to work at the non-profit ARISE Child and Family Services, too.

Extenssive menu at locally owned Cafe Kubal in Syracuse, N.Y.

Extensive menu at locally owned Cafe Kubal in Syracuse, N.Y.

A few months back, Phil was one of the takers when I offered the cut rate of $8 on signed copies of the book I co-wrote with Syracuse Media Group college basketball beat writer Make Waters, “The Syracuse Fan’s Survival Guide to the ACC.” By the way, details are here if you missed that deal and are interested, because I still have books and a Sharpie. To save on the postal rates that cut into that purchase price, I drove Phil’s copy over to his house and dropped it into his mail slot. He wanted to meet to settle up.

Cafe Kubal, a locally owned spot that’s grown to five locations, was a fine choice.

At 11 a.m., I’d already savored more than one helping of home-brewed Dunkin’ in the cup that’s as big as my head.

Iced Tea, a lovely looking and tasting Tumeric Ginger.

Iced Tea, a lovely looking and tasting Turmeric Ginger.

I decided, freezing day be damned, to go with an iced tea. The Turmeric Ginger flavor caught my attention. After individual brewing, it caught my eye and olfactory sense, too, and provided a marvelous sipping buddy through Phil’s and I’s hour-plus conversation.

He’s a Syracuse native who loves the city as much if not more than I do. He married a Polish woman, and we’re sure the four of us are going to meet at next June’s Polish Fest to eat and hang out.

We talked about Springsteen music on satellite radio — my car — and new live show CD releases — his wish list — and duplication on vinyl and CD for both of us through the decades.

We talked about Syracuse’s basketball team and how he so fondly thought of games he attended with his father at Manley Field House, the cozy home with a dirt floor and elevated court that begat the fame and attendance of the Carrier Dome, and my recollection of seeing the Orange lose to Georgetown in the ECAC Tournament championship game in the University of Maryland’s famed Cole Field House when I was a student reporter for the campus daiy, which begat the Big East and Coach Jim Boeheim’s sometimes spitty ways.

We both watched the 40th anniversary special of “Saturday Night Live,” he being just a couple years younger than I and right in that show’s sweet spot. I thought the tribute’s loose, hot-mess feel at times was perfect because so much of its greatness when I was watching it in its prime was because it was loose and a hot mess. As was I, for that matter.

He told me that for the first couple seasons, the NBC affliate in Syracuse did not show “Saturday Night Live,” choosing instead to stick with whatever show that was previously pulling in satisfying ratings. So local households had to have a new thing, cable TV, which also carried the NBC station from the city 50 miles to the Northeast, Utica, to see this new, live, cutting-edge comedy. Phil’s family did not have cable, so he came in a few years late and was enamored right away. Sunday’s special, though, could have been more well-organized, old clips and new skits and hosts and musical acts all, Phil said.

Cafe Kubal clock is cool.

Cafe Kubal clock is cool.

Suddenly, it was time to go, even if that might have taken me longer than usual to figure out by reading the hip clock behind the counter. Life in Syracuse — a good pace for both of us, we’d decided, he living here all of his 55 years except for five spent at college, me in Central New York since 1983 — had to go on. He had promised to pick up lunch and bring it to his wife.

I had to go back home and ready for my dear wife Karen and I’s trip to the Turning Stone Resort and Casino Showroom to see the traveling gig from another NBC show, “The Sing-Off.”

Me and Phil Prehn.

Me and Phil Prehn.

One of the best things about Syracuse, I told Phil, was how we had big-city entertainment and sports while retaining the friendliness of a smaller community.

And so it went that sitting at the next table was Joe Cunningham, the technology blogger for the great site where I write my twice-weekly film blogs, the Syracuse New Times. I introduced Joe and Phil, and Joe was glad to step outside in the cold and snow and snap our picture on my iPhone 6.

Does Turmeric Ginger sound like an iced tea flavor you’d roll the dice on? Did the “Saturday Night Live” 40th anniversary special make you happy or frustrated, and why? Big city anemities or small community friendliness, and why?

39 thoughts on “Talking Springsteen, ‘SNL’ and Syracuse with blogger Phil Prehn

  1. No one the tea… any tea actually. I actually didn’t watch the SNL special… I stopped liking SNL in about 2001 when it went from being clever to goofy. Though I was sorry to have missed Betty White on there. I love that you met your blogger friend in person. That’s so cool. But then again, so are you, my friend! πŸ™‚


  2. yay, another Mark-meets-blogger story πŸ™‚ Love that you do that. Blogging seems a great way to join like-minded souls. Great photos–such friendly folk you are.

    Haven’t seen the SNL thing. It was good? I would like big city amenities with small community friendliness. Too much to ask do you think? Minneapolis isn’t too far off the mark (Mark!) except for the shootings etc. Though fewer here than other bit cities. And you know my tea answer. Bring it on. Sounds amazing. Thinking I’ll be experimenting.


    • I would think you could meet bloggers other than food-related in Minneapolis if you reached out somehow, Liz. No?

      And I mentioned on the Blues post how Minneapolis has the rep for being a hip city, and I wonder if it’s friendly, too. I’d think so because cold and snow brings folks together.

      You can make the ginger tea. I know you can. It’s delish. And fun.


  3. I agree with the hot mess part. If SNL was ever flawless and went off w/out a hitch, it wouldn’t be SNL. The musical acts, other then the apropos “Still Crazy After All These Years” were wastes of time. Just last week, my neurologist told me to get more yellow in my life, so I’d chug that Turmeric Ginger, no problemo. More yellow for me! PS, Phil’s head looks warmer than yours.


  4. This is so great and I loved the conversation subjects and your collection of thoughts, too. Wonderful subjects and you are definitely a premier reporter with your finger on the pulse of ‘where it’s at.’ My favorite parts of SNL were of the older group, but do feel that we have had some comedy and musical greats perform on SNL, all through the years. Bruce is the best, no question about his gift to all of us.


  5. I love Ginger, it’s so good for you Mark!

    You guys, south of the 49th do iced tea way more justice than we do it here. Iced tea here, for the most part, comes in powder form, to be mixed with water just like cool aid or something and it’s super sweet! I’m not a fan of it. ❀
    Diana xo


    • This ginger tea was quite exciting for me, Diana, because it had a big bite to it. It was spicy! I drink powdered team when I must, but not the sugared variety. They make a good sugar free brand here, Crystal Light. If you can find it in Canada, I recommend it. I buy the straw variety, pour one in a liter bottle of water, and it’s not overly sweet. Of course, any good restaurant and even the fast food and convenience stores have fresh brewed iced teas. With fresh lemon wedges!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post Mark. It is fun to see you having a ginger tea with a fellow blogger. And yes, I’d love a ginger tea, thank you. i’ve always liked ginger ale and i imagine it would share some taste with ginger tea.

    I saw the SNL special on the TV guide but chose to watch something else. It was big in my day too (you and I are only 1 year apart) but I honestly foubd that towards the end SNL changed and the humor became less amusing for me. Not sure why.

    Cafe Kabul sounds like a great meeting place Mark. i read their website and the owners seem to be up and coming young business people.


    • SNL changed with the times, I’ve thought, Paul, and I perhaps have changed in a different direction. I’ve watched the show less, too. But nevertheless, I still appreciate it a lot, because it takes more chances than most, and of course it breaks the best comic talent around. This special put a big bow on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I was 5 when the show debuted, so I didn’t get to make the bond so many have with it. Watching the anniversary show was fascinating, it had some brilliant minds attached to it that contributed so much. Eddie Murphy blew it, and Kanye was a disaster, but the rest was fabulous.


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