Pleb Summer: Pink Lemonade

by on August 10th, 2017

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for trips to the beach house, a cross-country road trip, or travel to exotic vacation destinations.

But for those of us who can’t spare the time or the money to make a getaway, it’s PlebSummer! We’re posting this summer about summer for the rest of us.

Pleb summer is all about finding cheap and relaxing ways to escape the heat. One of the most popular ways to do this (and one of the least expensive) is to pour a nice, cold glass of lemonade. But if you find yourself reaching for the pink lemonade (c’mon millennials – we’re looking at you), it may interest you to know the history of this beverage.

While traditional lemonade can trace its start in America back to the 17th century, the pink variety dates to the 19th century. Though it is hard to confirm the exact origin; most stories place the genesis of this beverage in the circus. One story claims that Henry E. Allot (a man who actually ran away to join the circus) accidentally dropped some red cinnamon candies into a batch of lemonade he was preparing to sell. Instead of making a new vat, he simply sold the pink lemonade.

A similar, albeit slightly more disgusting, tale is linked to Pete Conklin, but in this version the role of the candy is played by pink-tights. Conklin used a tub to make lemonade that had just been used by a female performer to wash her laundry. Instead of dumping the discolored drink he passed it off as “strawberry flavored.” Yum.

Not pictured: dirty laundry

As for how our pink lemonade gets its color today, the answer is slightly surprising. Pink lemons are real (and were discovered in Eureka, California in the 1930s), but their juice is clear, like any other lemon. And while homemade pink lemonade is often made with strawberries, raspberries, or cranberries – the store bought varieties are usually tinted with grape extract. To be fair, all of that sounds better than dirty laundry water.

Pleb Summer: Hot Dogs

by on August 3rd, 2017

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for trips to the beach house, a cross-country road trip, or travel to exotic vacation destinations.

But for those of us who can’t spare the time or the money to make a getaway, it’s PlebSummer! We’re posting this summer about summer for the rest of us.

A key element of enjoying Pleb Summer is the consumption of copious amounts of hot dogs. And while it may not be a good idea to think about what your hot dog is made of, we thought it might be interesting to learn about the history of this piece of Americana.

“Hot dogs are proof God loves us and wants us to be happy” -No One

The sausage has existed for hundreds of years with Gaius, the cook for Emperor Nero, often being given the credit of creating the first. From there, the history of the hot dog (like most foods) becomes tricky to pin down. The sausage moved across Europe, and both Frankfurt and Vienna in Germany claim to be home to the “frankfurter” and “wiener” respectively. But seeing as a hot dog is nothing without the bun, the birth of this delicious treat does not really occur until the 1860s in New York City, where German immigrants sold hot dogs on milk rolls with sauerkraut (yum).

One of the earliest peddlers of the hot dog proper was Charles Feltman, who sold franks from a stand in Coney Island, Brooklyn. By the turn of the century, Charles had upgraded the stand to a full-blown restaurant – Feltman’s German Gardens – a complex serving beer and food that ran down West 10th Street, from Surf Avenue to the beach. While the focus switched to seafood, Feltman kept seven grills open serving hot dogs for 10 cents a pop. The story goes that it was while working one of these grills that a young Nathan Handwerker started saving his money to open his own establishment. In 1916 he leased a space on Surf Avenue, and started selling hot dogs for 5 cents. His plan to undersell the competition worked, and today Nathan’s Famous is a recognized brand nationwide. You can grab a Nathan’s dog in Coney Island, in numerous food courts, or from your local grocery store -but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who has heard of Feltman’s.

By the Great Depression, the hot dog was enjoyed across the nation. In 1939 Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt served them to King George VI as part of a picnic lunch at Hyde Park (they were supposedly well received). Today we eat them all summer long – at ball games, backyard barbecues, beach concerts, or just around the dinner table.

However, we don’t all eat them the same way. In Chicago, dogs are placed on a poppy-seed bun and topped with tomato, pickle, peppers, onion, relish, and mustard. In the Midwest they have the “Coney dog” which is topped with chili, cheese, and onion. Arizona is home to the Sonoran dog, which is wrapped in bacon and topped with pinto beans, mayo, chopped tomatoes, onions and jalapeños. The good people of Seattle eat dogs covered in cream cheese, grilled onions, jalapeños, and cabbage. And, for our money, you can’t go wrong with a traditional New York City hot dog – served from a cart, boiled in suspicious water, and topped with saucy, sweet red onions.

So make sure the next time you and a friend are “grabbing some dog” as the kids call it, you tell them all about the history of the hot dog – they’ll thank you for it.

Pleb Summer: Free Shakespeare

by on July 27th, 2017

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for trips to the beach house, a cross-country road trip, or travel to exotic vacation destinations.

But for those of us who can’t spare the time or the money to make a getaway, it’s PlebSummer! We’re posting this summer about summer for the rest of us.

One of the best things about spending the hotter months in New York City is the opportunity to see free Shakespeare. An institution for over 60 years, Shakespeare in the Park, produced by The Public Theater and preformed in Central Park, is perhaps the best-known production. This annual summer series is not only free, it often features universally acclaimed actors. Past productions have included Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, James Earl Jones, and Denzel Washington.

However, Shakespeare in the Park is not the only company to preform the Bard for free in this fair city – Hudson Warehouse and Shakespeare in the Parking Lot also offers the public a chance to experience Shakespeare at no cost. A longer list of some of these free productions is available here:

Free Shakespeare extends beyond the five boroughs. Odds are if you Google your hometown and “free Shakespeare” you will come across a production nearby. You can also visit where they offer a large list of productions (some free, some not) across the world, sorted by play! You can view that list here:

So get out there and go watch a man talk to his ghost dad, or some teenagers who hang out with a monk. It won’t cost you a dime.

Pleb Summer: Ice Cream Trucks

by on July 20th, 2017

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for trips to the beach house, a cross-country road trip, or travel to exotic vacation destinations.

But for those of us who can’t spare the time or the money to make a getaway, it’s PlebSummer! We’re posting this summer about summer for the rest of us.

Whether echoing down crowded city streets or quiet suburban hamlets, looped music over a loudspeaker evokes a response as strong as anything Pavlov could have imagined and it can only mean one thing:

The ice cream truck is here. One of summer’s most happy pleasures.

Ice cream vendors actually date back to the 19th century. Back in the old days, a “penny lick” got you a small portion of ice cream on a dish which you would lick clean. The dish would then be dipped in a bucket of water and used to serve the next customer. This lack of concern for basic hygiene, plus a general lack of refrigeration, meant that while enjoying an ice cream treat, you’d be risking diphtheria, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, and many other life-threatening diseases.

Luckily hygiene improved, and in the mid-20th century, Harry Burt, the founder of Good Humor, started selling his Good Humor bar out of a truck. In 1965, Mister Softee was founded, and ice cream trucks have been here to stay ever since.

And that music! You can read an interesting history of the ice cream truck jingle here.

And if you like your ice cream truck history more on the fictional side, we highly recommend “Comfort and Joy,” Bill Forsythe’s movie about the Glasgow ice cream truck wars.


We Welcome Bob Ross to the Ivory Tower

by on July 13th, 2017

We at UPG are thrilled to announce our newest personality: painter, TV host, and Guru of Calm, Bob Ross.

At first glance, Bob Ross might not seem like an obvious choice for The Unemployed Philosophers Guild cannon.

But, actually, if you think about it…

Bob Ross retired after 20 years of in the armed forces to dedicate himself to painting. He became a popular teacher and ended up landing his own television show.

His gentle demeanor and unabashed delight in painting continues to inspire us.

Got a problem with his presentation?

Got a problem with a guy who teaches that anyone can learn to paint.

Got a problem with his subject matter?

After approximately four minutes, you’ll come to the realization that you are a person with problems!

As a drill sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, Bob Ross did his share of yelling. On his show, he speaks to his viewers in gentle tones. In the service, he spent plenty of time harassing recruits to hurry up, do things right, get tough. On his show, he urges us to paint along, to play, to think of mistakes as part of experimentation instead of terrible obstacles to being correct/right/perfect?

Why do we find it so difficult to accept the realness of art if we’re the ones doing it? Why can’t we believe in the goodness of making things for the sheer pleasure of expression? So maybe we won’t paint anything likely to break records at Christie’s – so what?

The act of creation is one of the most essential human experiences, and though we lost Bob Ross many years ago, he continues to bring countless people to that experience.

It this spirit, we present three brand-new Bob Ross items:

Bob Ross Self-Painting Mug

This mug depicts Bob Ross poised in front of a canvas with brush at the ready. Add a hot beverage, and the entire mug transforms into a lovely Bob Ross painting!

Bob Ross The Joy of Painting Sticky Notes

A collection of sticky notes featuring Bob Ross’ art and quotes from the great man, himself. Includes a canvas sticky note for your own tiny works of art!

Bob Ross Happy Little Mints

Delicious peppermints in a lovely tin featuring Ross and his artwork. A little minty inspiration for your day.

Pleb Summer: The State Fair

by on July 5th, 2017

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for trips to the beach house, a cross-country road trip, or travel to exotic vacation destinations.

But for those of us who can’t spare the time or the money to make a getaway, it’s PlebSummer! We’re posting this summer about summer for the rest of us.

About this time of year, average citizens from Alaska to Alabama are gearing up for a classic summer tradition: The State Fair.

State Fairs are so ubiquitous (as are the county fairs that lead up to them) that Americans take for granted just how uniquely American and odd they are.

Agricultural fairs date back to ancient times of course. But American fairs are so much more. In addition to annual display of livestock and agricultural products, state fairs are known for their fairground rides and games, pageant shows, recipe contests, tractor-pulls, rodeos, speeches by vote-hunting politicos (even Abraham Lincoln spoke at a state fair when he was running for president), freak shows, loads of fried and remarkably frightening foods, bird-calling competitions, and, of course, butter sculptures.

The first American State Fair was held in Syracuse, New York in 1841, but it wasn’t until after the Civil War that they really became the sites of mass rowdy entertainment that they are today.

If you live in a State with a fair (and odds are you do, since they’re held in 46 states), treat yourself with a trip down to the fairground for a special kind of fun you’re not going to find elsewhere. Where else but a State Fair would you see a replica of the Statue of Liberty made out of corn or monkeys in top hats dancing to minstrel music (OK, they don’t do that last one anymore, but they used to, at the Ohio State Fair). Lost children, stomachaches, and monkey bites are the norm in August and September as Americans gather on fairgrounds for one last bacchanal before the summer ends.

Pleb Summer: Summer Reading

by on June 27th, 2017

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for trips to the beach house, a cross-country road trip, or travel to exotic vacation destinations.

But for those of us who can’t spare the time or the money to make a getaway, it’s PlebSummer! At the Guild, we’ve got plenty of PlebSummer plans:

  • Raising tiny humans in order to have an alibi for spending the summer at public pools and water parks
  • Writing an exhibition catalogue for an art show
  • Visiting our nearest U.S. National Parks (for instance, The People’s Beach, Teddy Roosevelt’s House, and Stonewall Park )
  • Coney Island. Brighton Beach.
  • Design and crochet a baby blanket – in time for friend’s baby!
  • Teaching typography and graphic design
  • Crafts
  • Presentations and reading series attended by other PlebSummer-ers
  • Rooftop barbeques
  • books, Books, BOOKS

Reading is one of the great joys of summer. (It’s one of the great joys of the rest of the year too, of course.) And you don’t have to be at the beach, by a pool, or at a hut in the mountains to enjoy proper summer reading.

Here’s what some of the employees at the Guild are reading this summer.



I’m finally reading a book that’s been on my list for years: Moss Hart’s Act One, a classic memoir of a life in the New York theater by one of the most famous writers and directors on Broadway of the mid-20th century.

I’m also working my way through Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science – stories of the adventurers and scientists at the end of the 18th century who built the Romantic era. It’s an eclectic book, mixing scientists and poets in a particular Romantic way. The book wonderfully captures a sense of enthusiasm and wonder of these insatiably curious people and how their adventures helped shape our world.



Currently reading:

-Gelett Burgess’ Are You a Bromide?  fyi free at

-Robert Reich’s Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few

-George Saunders’ Pastoralia 

-lashings of P.G. Wodehouse and Moby Dick (always)

-collections of local and regional ghost stories from all over the USA (as acquired)

-Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century 

…you know: ideas and art and what haunts us.



I’m reading Kristen Ashley’s Dream Man series.

Why? Excellent beach read romance novels that feature hot guys who ride motorcycles.

The plots include a souped-up version of the classic damsel in distress who gets rescued by a bad ass alpha hero. The twist: these damsels are very self sufficient and sassy. They give the heroes lots of attitude (along with big hair, high heels and cosmos galore)!



I’m continuing my reading of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series – I’ve already read volumes 1 & 2.  I like graphic novels, but this sort of thing is not my usual speed. I’ve come to Gaiman late; somehow I just completely missed him.

I’m thinking about getting Gaiman’s latest – Norse Mythology – which sounds excellent.
Finally I picked up at stoop sale a copy of Barry Unsworth’s Ruby in her Navel. 12th Century Sicily, Muslim financiers, Norman Kings, Crusades – how can one resist?



Around this time of year, I like to read the sorts of novels where you get to know the characters and live their day-to-day lives alongside them, and I especially like to read them in parks and on roofs. Two years ago I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, which follows a striving immigrant family in Williamsburg through more than a decade at the turn of the century. As a Brooklyner I particularly enjoyed my familiarity with the book’s geography — it was like putting myself in a time machine and transporting back to when my great-grandparents were raising a family here. It’s one of my favorite novels. Right now I’m reading Modern Lovers by Emma Straub, which follows two middle-aged couples and their kids in Ditmas Park, my old neighborhood. I like walking around with the characters in familiar locales — I just read a love scene that takes place at the playground next to my old apartment — but you don’t need to know the neighborhood to enjoy the book; it’s a great story both of young people falling in love and of married people confronting complacency and malaise. I enjoy reading books that expand my perspective with foreign places and experiences, but every now and then it’s nice to read something closer to home.



In anticipation of Blade Runner 2049 and because of a recent re-watch of Total Recall, I’ll be dedicating most of my summer reading to Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi catalog. To date, I have Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? under my belt. I happily discovered that, for me, it’s one of those rare instances where the film is just as an enjoyable as the book it was based on. (Dare I say that I liked Blade Runner more?) Next up in the queue is We Can Remember It for You WholesaleA Scanner Darkly, and The Man in the High Castle. Although I don’t consider myself to be a big sci-fi buff, it seemed preposterous that I’d gone this long without reading the source material for some of my favorite genre films.



This summer I will be reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan. UPG designer Eric recommended it to me a while back in part because of the role typography plays in the narrative, but ultimately I have a serious weakness for books about reading books. Throw in a bit of wit and fantasy, some stuff about print vs digital media and the future of reading (hi there, undergraduate thesis), and I’m essentially required to read it. “Mr. Penumbra” looks to be on the lighter side, which I’m told is what people prefer to read during the summer months while they’re “at the beach,” whatever that means. At least the cover is a sunny yellow. And if for any reason Mr. Penumbra comes up short, I will happily reread If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino and be contented.



I am going to finish Crime and Punishment before I do anything…..

Murakami’s new book of short stories: Men Without Women: Stories
David Sedaris: Theft by Finding
Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse Five
Sherlock Holmes!!



What I am currently reading:

Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey

My mother gave me this book maybe 5 years ago and urged me to read it, but like most of the books my mom gives me I put it on a shelf to read later, thinking I wouldn’t like it all that much. And just like every single book she’s ever given me, I find myself loving it more and more. Why do I never remember that my mother has excellent taste? This book feels like listening to a family member tell an anecdote you’ve heard over and over again. The characters feel familiar, but distant – archetypes you know but have never met. Which is especially impressive given the narrative style of the book. This book pairs great with peanuts and beer.

Night Shift by Stephen King (a collection of short stories).

I’m picking my way through this collection, reading a story here or there. There is something about horror in a small dose that works perfectly – you are given just enough to be thoroughly spooked, but not enough that you start picking away at the facade. I am reading this mostly before bed. This book pairs well with waking your partner up every night at 2 A.M. because you “heard something in the living room – for real this time.”

What I plan on reading:

A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald by Errol Morris

Errol Morris’ take on the Jeffrey MacDonald case. Pairs well with a continuing sense of misanthropy and confusion over our legal system. And maybe whiskey?

What I will read again for the 15th time:

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie is like candy to me. I can’t stop reading her and I don’t care to. And especially with the movie coming soon (don’t get me started on the abomination that is Kenneth Branagh’s mustache) I think it is worth reading this classic again. Pairs well with literally everything because this book is perfect.

Pleb Summer: Solstice Fun

by on June 20th, 2017

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for trips to the beach house, a cross-country road trip, or travel to exotic vacation destinations.

But for those of us who can’t spare the time or the money to make a getaway, it’s PlebSummer!

No matter what your summer plans, the sun has plans for all of us, so today’s post is on the Summer Solstice.

Observing the solstice is a great way to experience one of the hundreds of traditions that have come down to us. Some traditions are somber, some are occasions for revelry. Here are just a few of the many ways to party, solemnize, or otherwise celebrate the solstice:

– On the solstice, the sun aligns with the stones of Stonehenge every year, but just because you can’t wing your way to Wiltshire doesn’t mean you can’t build your very own hengeBuild it with marshmallows and you have an excellent closer for that rooftop barbecue. (Other U.S. Stonehenges here.)

– The ancient Chinese celebrated femininity and “yin” on the day of the Summer Solstice. Identify how you identify and celebrate femininity today!

– Since 1996, the Summer Solstice has marked National Aboriginal Day in Canada (or Journée nationale des Autochtones as they call it in French Canada). You Canadian readers can see a list of activities here. For those of you who can’t attend an event, the government of Canada has published this helpful list of suggested activities.

– There are many Pow Wows around the time of the summer solstice, and they are open to non-Natives. If there is no Pow Wow nearby, you may attend virtually.

– In ancient Greece, slaves could feast and compete in games, and participate in solstice celebrations with freemen. (Seems like the least they could do in an ancient democracy, right?) Some calendars began the countdown to the Olympics from the solstice. You can start counting down now.

– Lots of cultures celebrate with bonfires (good – it’s not hot enough). In France and Scandinavia, and Estonia, where they build a bonfire and then jump over it. All you need for this is a match and something to burn. Cheap!

– In fact, if you’re up for some fire jumping (hey, Estonians!), along with other entertaining and educational events, you might spend the evening at the Peabody and the other Harvard Museums.

– In the United States, you can celebrate the solstice at social gatherings such as picnics and potlucks, scientific lectures and demonstrations, and cultural events and religious rites open to the public. Check your local listings, then get out and experience the pluribus of our unum!

Pleb Summer: Green-Wood Cemetery

by on June 7th, 2017

It’s nearly summer, which means it’s almost time for trips to the beach house, traveling across country, or to other exotic locales.

Except for those of us who can’t spare the time or money or leave our jobs for long stretches of time. This summer is Pleb Summer at the Guild – we’ll be posing about summer for the rest of us.

Today’s post is about an unlikely place where working-class New Yorkers used to go to relax in nice weather: Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.

Founded in 1838 on the site of a Revolutionary War battle, Green-Wood quickly become a major tourist attraction. Why? 478 acres of wooded hillsides, gardens, and ponds, covered with statuary and mausoleums. Before there was Central Park and before there was the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Green-Wood was the place your average urban New Yorker could go to experience nature and art. Back in those days the mausoleums were open to the public, so picnickers could explore all kinds of lovely architecture as they strolled down Green-Wood’s paths.

It may seem odd to treat a cemetery like a public park, but people had a different relationship to death back in those days. And in fact, the popularity of Green-Wood led to a competition to deign a park in Manhattan that became – you guessed it – Central Park.

Green-Wood is now a National Historic Landmark and still a lovely place to stroll – for free! – on a nice summer day. It’s also an exceptional place to bird watch, with its own colony of parakeets!

So if you’re stuck in a city somewhere this summer, check out your local cemetery. The people there are much quieter and considerate than the people at the beach.

The Taco Salad

by on May 23rd, 2017

National Salad Month is a time for reflection as well as for celebrating. A month designated by a venerable professional association – the Association for Dressings and Sauces – reminds us that the corporate and the cultural have been deeply fused for a longer time than we may realize.

Take the Taco Salad. Truly, an American innovation worth celebrating. Sure, it may be disparaged by more discerning palates, but the taco salad is a Tex-Mex classic, right up there with nachos, chimichangas, and chili con carne. Who can resist the two kinds of crunchiness – crisp icebox lettuce, and crunchy fried tortillas? And come on, you have to love a food that allows you to eat the bowl it comes in.

But the story behind the taco salad is a bit different than those others. It’s a story of collusion between two American greats: the Walt Disney Company and Frito-Lay.

Elmer Doolin, the founder of Frito-Lay, known for Fritos as well as other delicious snacks, petitioned Disney to allow Frito-Lay to open their very own “Mexican” restaurant at Disneyland. Casa de Fritos opened in August 1955, just down the way from Aunt Jemima’s Pancake House. Casa de Fritos specialized in basic Mexican-style dishes, each served with a bag of Fritos. And if you wanted more Fritos, there was an animatronic vending machine on the way out.

Besides inventing the Dorito (by frying their stale tortillas rather than throwing them away), Casa de Fritos invented the venerable taco salad.

As you can see, at the top of this menu is “taco in a ‘tacup’,” which was in fact, a tiny taco salad – ground beef, beans, sour cream, and cheese, served in a hard “taco cup” made out of a frito shell.

As word spread, the taco in a “tacup” was copied by other restaurants and grew in size into the taco salad. By the 1960s, taco salad was appearing in recipe books.

And as its fame spread, so did its mystique. To this very day, this American classic brings a fiesta wherever it goes.

So three cheers for the manufactured-yet-beloved taco salad and to the corporate powers which made it possible!

Everyone loves taco salads!