Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Continuing Adventures of Sitcom Kelly

You remember my friend Sitcom Kelly, right?  She’s the one who wants to put a Silence of the Lambs pit in her basement for the purpose of capturing and keeping Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (and possibly former Steelers kicker Matt Bahr).

This weekend, she made a pilgrimage to Pittsburgh to see her first game at the new Consol Energy Center.  The Pens were playing the Florida Panthers Sunday afternoon.  This afforded my friend a new opportunity to stalk the object of her twisted desires.

She had good seats too, down by the goal that the Pens defended twice.

This gave her the opportunity to get this picture of the Pens goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury.

As she emailed me some of her pictures, which included several of Letang’s back, I wondered why she never got one of his face.  Or maybe she did, but was keeping it to herself.  I can see her tacking the photos up right now, onto her stalker photo-board, along with the rest of the surveillance shots.

I suggested that maybe the reason she didn’t get any face shots was that maybe he, like other prey, got spooked by her presence.
Kris Letang senses a dangerous presence nearby.

Later he seeks advice from other members of the pack.
With his sense of danger confirmed, he spends the rest of the game at the other side of the ice.

Cover blown, Sitcom Kelly considered other means of camouflage.
Iceburgh proved to be scrappier than she expected so the plan was abandoned.  Jean-Claude Van Damme made it seem so much easier in "Sudden Death."

Sensing that his adversary’s spirit was broken, Letang sent over a delegation of elders to “reason” with Sitcom Kelly.
Elder Kovalev, flanked by Elders Kunitz and Michalek, plead for leniency, so that Kris can finish the game in peace.

All was well in the end, as James Neal iced the game in an overtime shootout.
“Uh, winning…”

So with Letang off the market for the time being, Sitcom Kelly mentioned that she had another iron in the fire.  We emailed about it this morning:

Kelly: I think I told you how I was going back on (dating site) Plenty of Fish?  This guy emailed me the other day.  He works for some radio station covering the Nationals and Capitals games.  HE GETS FREE TICKETS!!  Am I really that shallow that I’ll date this guy for his free hockey tickets?  If he gets playoff tickets… Ohhhh baby!  Ka-ching!

Bluz: Does he know you’re a Pens fan?  That might chill the relationship off.  “Sitcom Kelly” would totally date for hockey tickets.  It would be funny if she left her “benefactor” so that she could stalk Letang between periods.

Kelly: He does not know I’m a Pens fan.  At what point should I tell him?  I guess he’d find out when I’m at the game all prim and proper until the Pens come out onto the ice and I rip my top off and underneath is my Pens hockey gear.  Kinda like Superman.

Bluz:  That would be hilarious.  It would also ensure that it was your last date.

Later I asked where they went around town.  Among other places, she mentioned they went to Primanti’s.  I thought that was weird because she’s a vegetarian.

Bluz:  Hey, what YOU get at Primanti’s?  A sandwich with nothing on it but fries and slaw?  (Primanti’s is famous for jamming the fries and coleslaw right into the sandwich.)

Kelly: Fish sandwich.  My brother-in-law was all excited because he’d seen this place (and the woman at the counter) on one of the food travel shows.  I got a t-shirt… not exactly why.  I’m sure I’ll never wear it.

Bluz:  Why wouldn’t you wear it?  It’s not like the dum-dums here would know it’s a Pittsburgh shirt.  Or did you buy an ugly one?

Kelly:  I don’t really wear t-shirts.

Figures.  Here’s a chick that doesn't like cheese but still orders cheese sticks, quesadillas, nachos and cheese pizza.  Why wouldn’t she buy a t-shirt when she doesn’t wear t-shirts?

And you wonder why we want to do a sitcom about her…

Liner Note: I was going to post a couple of her pictures with the thought bubbles as a part of a larger “Odd Bits” post, but next thing I knew, a whole post jumped out.  Sometimes “inspiration” plays hell with “planning.”  Also, I should note that all photos were taken by Sitcom Kelly and were used with her kind permission.  (Unless you notice later that some are missing, in which case permission has been revoked.)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Power Millions Mega Ball

Friday’s Mega Millions multi-state lottery jackpot was up to $312 million, which reminded me of an old joke:

A guy comes home from work and his wife says, “Pack your bags, baby, I just hit the lottery!

The guy says, “Should I pack for the beach or the ski slopes?

The wife says, “I don’t care, just get the fuck out!

I almost never play the lottery.  I say “almost,” because I do play on occasions like this, when the jackpot gets so ridiculous.  I know I’m basically pissing money down the drain, but it buys me a night or two to dream big.

So it got me thinking, what exactly would I do if I hit a major lottery like this one?  And you know what happens when I start thinking

Blog post.

I’ve written before about my buddy Rik and his plan for a lottery jackpot, which involves buddy John and me quitting our jobs to become his posse.  First, he’d set up his kids.  Then our jobs would be to arrange trips, secure sports tickets and turn down requests for money.  Oh, and I’d write his biography: “Memoirs of a Feral Bachelor.”

All due respect to my buddy, I think I’d have to go a different way.

I would have one overwhelming priority: that I would never have to work again as long as I live.  There are so many people, whether lottery winner or professional athletes, that come into money and consequently piss it all away in no time at all.  That would NOT be me.

Right off the bat, I quit my job, by taking a scan of my winning ticket pressed up against my bare butt cheek and emailing it in.  No need for an exit interview.  Then I head straight for the doctor's office and get a vasectomy.  With my new windfall, I should be able to find someone that will do it under general anesthesia.

Once I can walk again, the first order of business would be to hire a Money Guy (as opposed to Buddy Guy, who I might hire to play my birthday party) to run some numbers and determine the prudent course of action.  Right off, there’s the lump sum vs. installment payments.

In this case with a $312 mil jackpot, that’s either 26 annual payments of 12 million, or a lump sum payment of $198 million.  You have to figure, taxes take at least half of that, so that leaves $6 mil per year for 26 years or one payment of $99 mil.  I’ve always heard it’s better to take the lump sum, invest it, and live off the interest.  Still, I’d like to see numbers each way and see what would work best with the way I intended to spend.

Even by the most conservative estimate of say, taking the $99 mil and putting it in a savings account earning .05%, that would give me $495,000 per year to live on.  Of course, that is assuming I never touch the entire principle. 

I figure right off the top, there’s some money that’s going to be spent.  I buy a house here, and possible a modest one back in Toledo.  (For the record, for what I’d spend on a small house in Baltimore, I could buy a fucking mansion out in the farmland outside Toledo, where I grew up.)

Also, I’d pay off my parents’ house, set up my nephews real well, and maybe invest in an art gallery for my sister to run.  I’d pay off Pinky’s student loans and get her a decent car.  (Nothing gaudy… maybe a Prius or something.  I’m not going to be buying ridiculous rides for anyone, myself included.)

Hmm.  This is already eating into my interest-generating nest egg.  Maybe the $6 mil a year is the way to go.  Money wouldn’t stop coming in until I was 75.

Anyway, once the “givens” have been given, it’s time to formulate The Budget with the Money Guy.  (And one further note there… the Money Guy will NOT be given power of attorney or any direct access to the cash.  Too many people have been screwed out of their money by people they trusted to manage it.  Not this cowboy.  I’m signing off on everything.)  But The Budget will be sacrosanct.  No spending unless it’s within my monthly (or weekly) limit.  We are not pissing this money away.

That said, these are some things I’m going to want to do:

* Rik and John and I are going to have some FUN…  perhaps not job-quitting fun, but periods where we get to go play and not have to worry about jack.  And I’ll want to help out their kids too.  Of course this is where it gets tricky… determining appropriate sums of money to gift.  Almost any amount you give can be seen as cheap. 

What, all that money and he only gives me a lousy $1000/$5000/$10,000?”  Sometimes, no matter what you give people, it’s never seen as enough.  And besides that, what do you do when you think one kid might put it toward a college education, while another kid will blow it on spa treatments?  Perhaps a Supermarket gift card?

Or maybe I just do something like give a check for $1000 on every birthday.  That way there’s not as great of a chance for them to blow it on stupid shit all at once.

I’d buy Sitcom Kelly a dream date with Kris Letang.  What she did with him after that would be up to her and the likelihood of luring him into her Pit-laden basement.

* I’d definitely sponsor a couple family/friend gatherings a year, probably involving football games, either in Pittsburgh (early in the season) or more temperate places (Miami, San Diego, Tampa) for late-season games.  I thought about getting season tickets, but I think it would be better just to cherry pick the special events to attend.  I’d charter a big bus or something, and fly in the out of towners.

I’d also have to consider getting the NFL Sunday Ticket for my new 80” HDTV, but then I’d have to give up going to the sports bar when the games aren’t on TV locally. 

You know what would be cool?  Picking up the tab for every Steeler fan in a Baltimore sports bar.

* I would increase my political activity considerably.  Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the DSCC would all benefit greatly.  But there would have to be some ground rules. 

Rule 1: No bugging me.  I’ll make one donation a year, then I don’t want to hear squat from you.

Rule 2: If you pass my name onto any other organization, you’ll never see another dime.

Rule 3: You may contact me about special meetings where famous people are going to show up.  After all, I’ll still be a fame groupie.

Certain other Pittsburgh-based blogger-run events would benefit as well.

I would pay big ugly biker dudes $100 apiece to stand in front of those Westboro Baptist Church idiots when they're attention-whoring picketing at military funerals.  And I’d double it for anyone that bent over and gave them the old “red-eye.”  Or even better, get some of the queeniest Freddie Mercury clones straight from a San Francisco Pride Parade, to counter-demonstrate.  That ought to cause them an embolism or two.

I’d buy ads to run on Fox “News”, saying, “I can’t believe you’re buying this shit.  They’re lying to you and you’re too stupid to realize it!

See, now that’s pretty much it.  I have fairly modest tastes.  Oh, I may get a better computer and furnish the house(s) nicely, but you won’t see any of my places looking like those on “MTV Cribs” or anything.  Heck, I may not even need a new PC.  With this kind of dough, I won’t need Internet porn; I can just have girls come over to the house and pull up their shirts in person.

I’d probably have to hire someone as a personal assistant though… Like someone to research stuff (hotels, ticket prices) take my car to the shop, make phone calls, answer phone calls… Lord knows I’m not going to want to have to deal with all the hands coming out.

I bet it would be really hard, though, to wake up on any random morning and NOT spend any money.  I mean, I do it all the time now, but knowing you have a pile of “stupid” money lying around?  The temptation would be great.  It would take a lot of self-discipline, but The Budget would have to trump all.  That’s the only way to make sure the gravy train never runs out of track.

But what a great idea for a blog… to chronicle the experiences of a new millionaire!  I’d have to do it anonymously, of course, or else I’d just be begging to be assaulted by hackers and slackers.  Of course, I meant to keep this blog anonymous, but you know how that worked out.

So, Friday I spent $5 on Mega Millions tickets.  And as I sit here this morning, I’m just as po’ as I was on Friday.  There was one winner of the $319 million jackpot, and it tweren’t me.  The winning ticket was sold at a variety store in Albany NY.

Hey, I wonder if it was the Ex.  Is it too late to file for alimony?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Leftover Meat Loaf

It occurred to me that with my last post, I lost a good chance to post an actual clip of The Loaf in action.  I suppose I could append something onto it now, but that horse is pretty much out of the barn by now.  So hear I am with this quickie post.

The issue now is to decide which clip to post.  You’d think it would be a no brainer and I’d post clips of either “Bat Out of Hell”, or “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” because I spent considerable time talking about both.  But chances are, you already know Two Out of Three, so there’s little point in using that one.  Bat Out of Hell would be great, but the thing is, that song comes in at over 9 minutes.  I’m not going to ask you to hang around here that long.

So I decided to go a different way and post a song from Meat’s second album.

Way back in the early 80s, I read that Meat Loaf was going to be on one of those late-night music shows, the Midnight Special, I think.  I was just getting into the Bat Out of Hell album, so I made sure to stay up late to watch.  Remember, at this time, there was no MTV or other music videos available.  I had no sense of how this guy performed.

So I stayed up, all set to see me some Paradise, or some Bat, or some Two out of Three… But what I got was a series of music videos from his forthcoming album, Dead Ringer.  What a let down… I wasn’t in the mood to see songs I’d never heard before.
This is one of the albums I had him sign in Boston.

Let me get this straight though… I love that album now.  I just didn’t know it at the time. Little did I know that this was practically an all-star album.  Featured players were Davey Johnstone (from Elton John’s band) on guitar, Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg (from the E-Street Band) on piano and drums, Liberty DeVito (Billy Joel’s band) also on drums, Nicky Hopkins (Beatles side-man) on piano, and one more special guest vocalist.

One video really jumped out at me.  It was the title track, “Dead Ringer for Love.”  It appeared to be an attempt to recreate the vibe from “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights.”

It was staged as a big bar-room duet, jock-boy versus leather chick, but the twist was that the female singer was Cher.  Freakin’ Cher! 

Now, this was back when Cher was still pretty cool in a renegade sort of way, and not the surgically-enhanced, carp-mouthed mutant she’s become in recent years.  It would be another 6 years before she’d star in Moonstruck.

The two of them traded verses like they were having a ball, making perfect foils for each other.
Welcome back to 1981

Couple of quick notes on the video:

* I wonder how much time that Cher and The Loaf actually spent on the same stage.  There are only a couple shots where they’re both in the same picture.  The rest of the time, the shots are framed so that they could have been singing to a posse of stagehands and grips.

* How young do Meat’s backup singers look?  It looks like he’s a 30-year old ex-lineman fronting the JV Football team.  No way their voices would be low enough to pull off the "Dead ringer" refrain at the end.  And Cher’s chick party looks like it’s filled with extras from the street scenes of “Pretty Woman.”

* Loved the flash-change from roadie jerseys to frilly tuxedo shirt.  And he’s got the red hanky going!  He doesn’t use that so much any more, but at the time, he always had the red hanky to wave.  When he and Cher walk out of the place at the end, I swore he was going to wipe off the bar with it.

* I forgot how cheesy those early music videos could be.  Like I said, this was pre-MTV, and even those in the first years of MTV were pretty primitive.  I suppose these were filmed for European audiences, because there was no other outlet for them here.

* I never liked the “rock n roll and brew” refrain.  Who calls it ‘brew’ on a regular basis?  But I guess it’s easier to rhyme stuff with ‘brew’ than ‘beer’ or ‘ale’ or ‘Budweiser.’

OK, I tried to make this short, and I suppose it still qualifies, by my standards, anyway.  Really, I thought it was going to go a paragraph or two, tops.

I’m not exactly a Dead Ringer for brevity…

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What, Meat Loaf Again?

Against my better judgment, I’ve been watching “Celebrity Apprentice” this season.  After last season, I told myself, “Enough of this silliness.” 

When they announced this season’s slate of semi-famous and near greats, I was singularly unimpressed.  That is, until I got to two names: Marlee Matlin and Meat Loaf.

First off, I think Marlee Matlin is adorable, so that much was known.  Then last week on the Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump, she killed!  She really showed off wicked sense of humor, even before Gilbert Gottfried came out to act as her translator.

Gorgeous, funny, and she rarely speaks… I dare say; she’s the perfect package!

But I digress.  Mostly, I had to watch the show to see Meat Loaf.  He’s come up a couple of posts of mine before… One was about when I met him in 1994, and the other about how his music is my good luck charm for bad weather driving. 

Meat Loaf is my nominee for Greatest Rock Singer Ever.  Geez, I must have worn out 2 or 3 copies of the Bat Out of Hell cassette over the years.  When I was driving to and from college and the weather turned bad, I used to think, “If I’m going to kill myself smashing up this car, I at least want to go out to some great music.”  Could there possibly be better car crash music than the song “Bat Out of Hell?”

Anyway, when the snow fell, I’d crank up the Bat and somehow I’d always make it home.  I soon began to consider that tape to be my good luck charm.  I knew The Loaf would get me home.

If I had to pick one album as my all time favorite, this is it.  “Bat Out of Hell” is practically perfect.  It’s got brain-stinging guitar, flawless harmonies, wicked lyrics and a sly sense of humor, hooks a mile wide and a complete wall of sound.  The Loaf has a voice that can both blow apart a cinderblock or tickle you under the chin like a feather.  When he brings a song to a climax, you feel the earth move.

I first obtained the LP when I joined Columbia Record Club, back in the late 70s.  I got it primarily for “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” and “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights,” or “that one with the baseball rap” as I knew it then.  I didn’t know anything else on the album.

My buddy Brill told me to listen to the title track.  I saw that it ran over 9 minutes, so I told him, “Eh, that’s just another one of those long-ass songs you like.”  I was more partial to “3-minutes and out,” myself.  (In music… don’t be a wise-ass.)

I put the needle down, lay down on the floor with the lyric on the inner sleeve, and soaked it all in.  It damn near fried my brain right there.  It had power and fury, desperation and escape, living fast and dying too young.  It was a masterpiece.  And the end… holy shit, on that last “Like a bat out of HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLL,” he hits that note so freakin’ hard, and just holds it longer than any human should be able to do.  That was a life-changing event for me, right there.

So I was rolling toward the subway station this morning when “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” came on my MP3 player.  It occurred to me that I have 7 different versions of that song, each with its own strong points.

Original version: perfectly done, fairly understated, by Loaf standards.

Dub from a bootleg album from the 11th show of his first tour: Not nearly as polished as his later performances, but incredibly heart-felt.

Live from Wembley: from “Blind Before I Stop” tour in the mid-80s.  I saw this tour in Cleveland.  This is probably my favorite version, purely on the basis of the backup vocals.  He had these two blond sisters, Amy and Elaine Goff, singing with him and their voices just soared.

Live Around the World: From Bat Out of Hell 2 tour.  Big production.

VH1 Storytellers: live in studio, recorded for VH1.

Live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra: Full orchestral treatment!  Love this one.

Extra Track on his latest disc, “Hang Tough Teddy Bear.”  On the intro, he says he’d stopped playing this live, but would play it for them that night.  If I ever went to see a Meat Loaf show and he didn’t play 2 Out of 3, I’d be severely pissed off.

And this all doesn’t include the horrible Bonnie Tyler, disco version.

To see Meat Loaf in concert is like going to a rock opera.  Everything is over the top, and often times, acted out like a stage play.  When I saw him in Boston doing small warm-up shows before his Bat Out of Hell 2 tour, he did this thing where he got the audience to do this whole call and response bit, with out speaking a single word.  He just used gestures and facial expressions to communicate and it worked like a charm.  That was when I realized why he’s been so popular all over the world.  No language barrier.

I saw an interview he did back in the 80s, on a talk show that comedian David Brenner had, and was talking about an album he recorded in Germany.  Brenner asked him, “What did they call you in Germany, ‘Herr Loaf?”

He answered, “They mostly called me MEEEEAT!  Like, ‘You vill sing now MEEEEEAT!’”

Special Music Geek Note: His name is properly spelled, Meat Loaf, as a first and last name, rather than one name: “Meatloaf.”  Most music stores file his stuff under M, which is the one big exception to the traditional rules of filing by last name when it’s a real person.  There is no person named “Jethro Tull” or “Pink Floyd,” so they are filed respectively under “J” and “P”.  Meat Loaf should be filed under “L,” but is not. 

Anyway, the promos for Celebrity Apprentice have been showing over and over, this blowup between Meat Loaf and Gary Busey, where Meat threatens to put him in the hospital in 4 minutes.

So far, I’ve seen none of that.  Meat has been extremely patient and understanding with the insanity that is Gary Busey.  He’s talked to him calmly, tried to smooth over hurt feelings, and even apologized when he clearly wasn’t wrong.  Obviously, The Loaf will run out of patience at some point later this season.

So, what does all this Meat Loaf information have to do with anything?

Well, nothing.  But when you’re scratching for a blog topic that you feel like writing about and your favorite version of “Two Out of Three” comes on the headphones, sometimes inspiration just strikes.

PS. Bonus points for knowing the source of the title.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I'm Not in Stereo City Anymore, Am I?

Last Saturday, I found myself doing something that I haven’t done since I was but a young pup: buying a new car stereo.

Last summer, I posted about getting my brand new (used-2002) Chrysler Concorde.  While I may have upgraded my ride, I in fact had the exact same car stereo; a humble little cassette player.  For trips, I’ve been plugging a Disc-Man into the cassette player, but haven’t been particularly happy with all the wires and fumbling around trying to change the disc when I’m driving.  Add to that the GPS my dad sent me, and not I have too many things to plug into a single lighter/outlet.

So rather than get a splitter for it and have even more wires hanging all over the place, I decided to take this opportunity to upgrade my tunes and replace the cassette player with a CD/MP3-capable unit. 

I know… welcome to 2003.

So I found myself in Best Buy, staring at a myriad of different brands and flavors, most all of which do exactly the same thing.  To me, the biggest difference is figuring out how to work it all.  With every car stereo I’ve had since my first car, I’ve been able to just look at the knobs and buttons, and know what they do.

The buttons on these units are made up of a series of microscopic squiggles, jiggles and abbreviations that quite effectively mask their purpose.  I was able to get some competent help, however, from one of the friendly young blue-shirted Best Buy helper people, and managed to successfully consummate the purchase and arrange the installation of my new stereo unit.  As luck would have it, they could fit me in the following Sunday morning.

(Like I would have anything else to do on a Sunday morning?)

It only took an hour, which was easy to kill by wandering around the Best Buy.  (3-D TVs are coooool!  They wouldn’t let me pull up a recliner, though.)

Once installed, everything sounded great.  I was hoping the installer-people would give me some kind of tutorial on the operation, but no such luck.  And it’s not like this card-carrying, fully-registered “guy” is going to ask for directions.  I managed to figure out some basics, but ultimately decided I’d rely on the owner’s manual for the particulars.

Big.  Mistake.

Little did I know that the first thing I’d need is a freakin’ magnifying glass.  The font was not only tiny, but the print was faint.  I mean, I’m all for saving paper on the manual, but can you bold that shit for an old man?

I took the manual in to work with me, so I could try to read it under these bright fluorescent lights, and it did help a bit.  Then it dawned on me to look for the manual online.  I was able to find it and print out the relevant parts (meaning, the parts in English) and go over the fine points.

First order of business is to figure out how to get the clock going.  I mean, shouldn’t that be set up by default?  I guess not… instructions for the clock were buried deep within the manual.  This morning, I learned how addicted I was to look at the stereo for the time while on my way to work.  In a 12-minute trip, I glanced down for the time approximately 15 thousand times.  That’s the problem with time… just when you think you know what time it is, it changes.  You’d think that would be a lot of time with my eyes not on the road, but I tell you, it’s worse if I have to actually look at my watch.

So it’ll be OK, once I spend some time working on the navigation.  Just like anything else new, I’ll just have to get used to it, then it will become second nature.  But I’ll tell you what… “Highway to Hell” sounded pretty goddamned good as I was easing down the road.

Still, it was kind of sad.  I’ve had a cassette player in my cars since 1979.  I put my first one in myself, carving out the holes in the doors in which to install the speakers, then trying it again using the “correct” specifications.  Good thing is was just my beater ’76 Civic.  With my next car, I had the good sense to have it professionally installed.  It also included a power booster/equalizer, which were all the rage back then.  You could hear my AC/DC coming from the next county.

Consequently, I have about a zillion cassette tapes.  I’ve never liked listening to the radio.  I mean, why let someone else decide what I’m going to hear for my ear-bleeding pleasure?  I used to buy cassettes for a brief time while I worked in the record stores, but before too long, I bought a mixing board and began making my own mix tapes in the late 80s.

I can’t even begin to calculate how many hours I’ve spent selecting songs, arranging the sequence and making the recording.  For every 90-minute (or longer) tape, I probably put in 45 minutes of planning.  And the recording process itself was always stressful.

If you’re just recording a series of songs, if you mess something up, like bumping the needle or pushing the wrong button, you just rewind the tape and record the song again.  Because with mix tapes, you overlap the end of one song with the beginning of the next, so if you screw up, you have to start back at the beginning of the whole thing.  Making a mix tape was like a public performance that no one sees until much later.

Timing was also an adventure.  Over the years, I became adept at figuring out how many songs I could fit so that the last song would end just before the end of the tape.  Sometimes, just by eyeballing the rolling tape, I’d have to call an audible and throw in a different song than planned, because it was shorter.  Was I ever pissed when the tape would cut off before a song was over.

I’d always travel with a wide selection of tapes.  In the old days, I had this big 60-capacity tape case that looked like a businessman’s attaché case.  In later years, I went to a series of 12-capacity soft-side cases.  One good thing about having case after case of homemade cassettes in your car: no one ever steals them

But speaking of series, I always had a theme with my tapes.  There was the “Shivers” series, meaning that in order to make it, a song had to give me shivers when I listened to it.  This was my “Best of” collection.

My longest series was what I call the “Beaten Path” series.  I wanted to do a tape of songs that were good, but either weren’t played anymore, or never had any play in the first place.  I called it, “One Step Off the Beaten Path.”  This one subsequently spawned “Two Steps off the Beaten Path,” “Just Around the Corner From the Beaten Path,” “Journey to the Bottom of the Beaten Path,” “Drums Along the Beaten Path,” and eventually the finale, “Smack Upside the Head of the Beaten Path.”

I used to love to drop snippets of movie dialog in between songs.  If I couldn’t use movie lines, I’d use snippets of the recordings we made in The Barn.  I especially liked to put the snippets into tapes I made for others… I knew it would surprise them.  Sometimes I’d do those “interview” things where the narrator asks a question and a snippet of music as the answer, like Dickie Goodman used to do in the 70s.  (Mr. Jaws, Energy Crisis ’75)

Dad used to have me make him driving tapes, and tapes for special occasions like his reunions.  He’d have me do 2 or 3 fast ones, then a couple slow ones, so the rest of the geezens could catch their breath.

As I mentioned in a prior post, I pre-recorded a couple hours worth of music I used at my wedding.  Not only did it work, I got to keep the tapes and use them at other occasions.  In and around these, I also had tapes with a single band on them, tapes for special occasions,

My big “Masterpiece” was called “The Fuck You Tape.”  It was a work born of the pain of a breakup.  It had 4 parts, the first of which was The Realization, featuring songs about learning that your relationship is in trouble.  Next, “The Downward Spiral,” was about the descent into hurt and craziness.  Third was “Hitting the Bottom,” which featured a whole lotta drinking and ‘mah girl done left me’ blues songs.  Finally, “The Recovery…Fuck You!” featured songs about getting back on your feet and putting that screeching harpie behind you for good. 

It was my “Dark Side of the Moon.”

This is what I’m leaving behind: a lifetime of music, sequenced with a purpose.  I have no idea what I’m going to do with them all.  I’ll probably never play any of them again, but I put too much work into them to throw away.  I suppose I’ll keep them for the same reasons I keep everything else. 

Memories… good ones. 

But the next time I hit the road, I’ll be hitting it digital-style.  I can play CDs, plug in my MP3 player, or just stick in a flash drive.

Something tells me I’ll soon be putting a lot of work into some new playlists.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Getting Carded

This week I received confirmation that my OCD ways mad organizational skillz are paying off.

There was a message on my answering machine (yes, I still have one of those) from my credit card company, saying they have spotted some irregularities with my card use.  That’s usually something that grabs my attention.  My card was still in my possession so I know it wasn’t out there somewhere.  Not that having it in my wallet makes that much of a difference…

About 10 years ago I also had some unauthorized charges show up.  No one called, though… I spotted them on my bill.  Wasn’t even that hard… The bill was about a thousand dollars more than I’d expected.  I looked down the list and saw the name of a shop I’d never heard of.  After further investigation with my card company, they said someone had bought a grand worth of African masks.

The closest I have to an African mask in the place is my 6-foot standee of Darth Vader.
Not an African mask.

They worked it out and I didn’t pay for them, but the paperwork was a hassle.  Better than forking over the cash though…

So I called my card company (not the same one as from the first time) and they told me there had been a breach of their card numbers and mine had been compromised.

OK, they didn’t say that exactly… it took a much longer paragraph full of words in dense legalese that meant essentially the same thing.  They were going to cancel my card and issue me a new one with a different number.  That was all fine and good… I have a backup card that I can put a few bucks on until my primary card arrived.

The cool part of the whole thing was that they wanted to go through my recent purchases to determine which were legit and which were not.  This was extremely easy for me to do, because for the last 15 years or so, I’ve manually tracked every charge purchase I make on a tablet.  Then every month when I get the bill, I compare my notes to the bill and ensure there are no extra charges.

So the card rep was able to run down the last few days worth of charges and it was easy for me to confirm or deny.  There was only one that was unauthorized… a $25 charge at Forever 21.

Like I’ve ever set foot in a place like that

Anyway, my point is that it was my superior organizational habits that made that call such a breeze.  I bet they get people all the time that don’t know if a charge is theirs.  In fact they probably just deny all… the… charg…es.


Organization sucks.

So when I got the mail today, I found a new card.  I immediately called the number and activated my new card.  After I hung up, I compared the number to the old compromised card and the number was the same.  That was when I realized that the card had been about to expire and card I just opened was the replacement.

Immediately, I called back to tell them that they needed to cancel the card I just called to activate because the whole point was to change the number.  They assured me that my new card would arrive soon.  I thanked them and hung up.

Then I open the next piece of mail.


The new replacement card.

For the third time in 10 minutes, I called the activation number again and had to tell another call center person this story that was getting stupider by the minute.

For the record, I still have a ways to go to become fully organized.

And now, because I haven’t done so in a while, here are some more favorite editorial cartoons I’ve been stockpiling, courtesy of First Door on the Left:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Amateur Day

In other words, happy St. Patrick’s Day.

I’m always kind of ambivalent about St. Patrick’s Day, probably because I’m not Irish.  And this seems to be one of those days, like New Years Eve and the NFL playoffs, that people feel obligated to go out and get completely shit-faced drunk.  So I usually don’t do anything for St. Paddy’s.  I do enjoy the jokes though…

I used to have an “Onion” day calendar that had a particularly good bit for this day:
I particularly like #2.

I hate crowded bar rooms in any circumstances and it’s especially annoying on St. Pats.  My only salvation would be to take Sitcom Kelly with me.  She has experience in clearing Irish bars.  Once she was visiting Ireland and enjoying some drinks in a nice local pub.  One of the locals asked her what she was doing in Ireland.  She answered, “I want Irish babies!”
This was after the stampede.

Anyway, here’s a little something I’m posting as a public service to those of you determined to go out tonight anyway.  I worked long and hard copying this over from my Dad’s email, but nothing is too good for my friends!



Feet cold and wet
Glass Being held at incorrect angle.
Rotate glass so that open end points toward ceiling
Feet warm and wet
Improper Bladder Control
Stand next to nearest dog, complain about lack of house training
Beer unusually pale and tasteless
a. Glass empty.

b. You're holding a Coors Lite
Get someone to buy you another beer
Opposite wall covered with fluorescent lights
You have fallen over backward.
Have yourself leashed to the bar
Mouth contains cigarette butts, back of head covered with ashes
You have fallen forward
See above
Beer tasteless, front of your shirt is wet
a. Mouth not open

b. Glass applied to wrong part of face
Retire to restroom, practice in front of mirror
Floor Blurred
You are looking through bottom of empty glass
Get someone to buy you another beer
Floor moving
You are being carried out
Find out if you are being taken to another bar
Room seems unusually dark
Bar has closed
Confirm home address with bartender. If staff is gone, grab a six-pack to go and hit the nearest fire escape door. Run.
Taxi suddenly takes on colorful aspect and textures
Beer consumption has exceeded personal limitations
Cover mouth, open window, stick head outside
Everyone looks up to you and smiles
You are dancing on the table
Fall on someone cushy-looking
Beer is crystal-clear
It's water! Somebody is trying to sober you up
Punch him
People are standing around the urinals, talking.      
You're in the ladies' room
Do not use urinal!  Excuse yourself, exit and try the next door down the hall. Try to get phone numbers before exiting. (optional)
Hands hurt, nose hurts, mind unusually clear
You have been in a fight
Apologize to everyone you see, just in case it was them
Don't recognize anyone, don't recognize the room you're in
You've wandered into the wrong party
See if they have free beer
Your bedroom is painted gray, has a concrete floor and an interesting steel door. Toilet may be conveniently located next to your bunk
a. You're in jail

b. You're in the navy
Sleep it off, you can always get out tomorrow. Don't talk to your new roommate, and under no circumstances sleep on your stomach
Your singing sounds distorted
The beer is too weak
Have more beer until your voice improves
Don't remember the words to the song
Beer is just right
Play air guitar

I swear, we Italians gotta start some better traditions for Columbus Day.  Bocce tournament anyone?  There’ll be wine…

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Search for Reality Pt 3

Now we swing from the tawdry to the mundane.

You know how I like to keep tabs on what Internet searches bring people here to my site?  It seems that over the last couple of days, I’ve had some more corkers.  I just wish I knew what the hell people were thinking when they search for this stuff.

I’m also kind of bummed because I know they must be disappointed when they land here and it’s not even close to what they’re looking for.

Like the person from Brazil that was searching for “shit knockers.”  Was he looking for someone that someone that knocks shit around?  Or really messy boobs? 

Perhaps I should get him together with the person from Colorado that searched for “evil butts.”  Although being from tree-hugging, granola-eating Colorado, they were probably talking about cigarettes.

Someone from Morgantown WV searched “forced diaper boys,” and landed on my babysitting/diaper changing post.  I have to guess that they were pretty disappointed with what they found there.  You know, when I discovered that search, I swear I could hear the banjo music playing in the background.

Most of the bizarre searches are sex related and I hadn’t really gotten many of those until I posted those last two stories.  You may have noticed that I changed the operative term from “Bow-Chicka-Bow-Wow” to “Bow Chicka-Wow-Wow.”  I did this intentionally because I kept getting searches for various plays on “Bow-wow,” like “bow wow sex story” from Illinois, and “bow wow kiss & tell story,” from Sheffield, UK.  I should probably forward those IP addresses directly to the ASPCA.

My “Three-Way of Love” post pulled in this search from Indianapolis: “2 girls riding each other w/ one girl.”  That’s so specific, yet I have no idea what the hell he’s talking about.  Perhaps he’d have better luck taking after this guy from North Carolina, who searched for “pregnant drunk sluts.”  Perhaps I should have directed him to “Bitchburgh.”  (Just kidding, Mindbling.  Please don’t hurt me.)

I have to really wonder about the Mormons.  I got this search from Provo UT, “accidental attack wild huge rack.”  Either those are song lyrics, or this guy needs to go knock on some doors to work his shit out.

The Swiss are certainly not neutral when it comes to senior citizen sex, as attested to by this search from Zurich, for “nasty horny Grandpas.”  Yodel on this, baby!  And leave my little Grandpa alone!  He’s not that kind of guy… he’ll tell you himself!

A couple of more searches just defied explanation.  Someone from Victoria BC searched on “Googly-eyes Canadian.”  Looking for Dudley Dooright, maybe?
One Googly-Eyed Canadian, at your service!

Someone from Tennessee searched on “Stop off & buy a lighter.”  They hit one of my concert stories, but what I want to know is what someone could possibly have been looking for.  Was the searcher a traveling Bic salesman?

Someone from New Hampshire searched for “Civil war people looking worried.”  Again… so specific.  But it cracked me up because I’ve probably done something similar when looking for a picture to accompany a post.  Like the girl-in-car pic in the last post.  I think I searched under something like: “smiling drivers.”  Perhaps that site owner was as entertained as I am.

But for as specific as that civil war search was, others are cryptic to the point of being incomplete.  Like the guy from Sydney Australia who searched for “my dad did,” and found my $#!* My Dad Did post.  But in this case, was he answering a “whodunit” question?  Or was it more like “my dad did” not have sex with that woman?

Sometimes there are spelling issues, like when the guy from South Africa was looking for “who killed 2puck.”  He may have been trying to solve the mystery of rapper Tupac Shakur, but all he got here for his trouble was a healthy dose of Pittsburgh Penguins.

The most intriguing search I found actually hit pretty close to home.  The search was from Helsinki, Finland (home of the Syndrome) and he was looking for: “Mangela Fera Factor.”  This was actually a search for my cousin Angela who was on Fear Factor, whom I talked about a couple posts ago when she had her baby.  I have to be impressed by the Google’s search prowess, because I didn’t even mention “Mangela,” plus the dude misspelled the show’s name.

During the Fear Factor episode, Angela’s partner Zack mentioned that he calls her “Mangela,” because of her athletic prowess, especially in throwing a football.  Girl can wing it about 40 years.  She was throwing bombs all over the parking lot when we were together in Miami for the famous Hurricane Game.  I was surprised that Google could pull all that together.

Angela was not terribly pleased that Zack dropped that nickname on TV, which was now spread all over Pittsburgh.  In fact, when she came in to work the day after the broadcast, someone had taped an “M” in front of her office nameplate.  She’ll probably be even less pleased that I just dredged it up again.

But speaking of my dear cousin, she did me a solid by providing me with a nice clean segue into a closing and otherwise unrelated bit.

She emailed me pictures of my aforementioned Grandpa, not being nasty and horny, but supervising the making of ‘polenta’ aka “mush.”

I’ve never been to the polenta feast, so I followed up with Angela to get the scoop.  Here’s her report:

The "mush" (polenta) gets eaten straight from the wooden board.  First, it has to be boiled and stirred for a long time under Grandpa's strict supervision.  Once the mixture of water and cornmeal is thick enough, it gets spread with the big wooden stick onto the large wooden board.  Next the sauce is placed on top and spread all over the mush.  It is a special sauce with meat and mushrooms and so good!  Then meatballs and sausage are gathered in the center of the board on top of the mush/sauce layers and then Parmesan cheese is sprinkled over the whole thing.  People gather around the board with only forks and wine glasses. 

The traditional rule was this:  you had to eat a trail to the center before you could get a meatball.  Also popular is eating the mush to form the shape of the U.S. and particularly the southern panhandle states.  

My mom told me a story about a time when they were eating mush in Grandma and Grandpa's dining room and some people came to the back door, I think asking to use the telephone.  She said when they came in and saw the table they looked shocked at seeing the mush feast in progress!

I am not sure how often our parents ate mush, but I think it originated as a cheap way to feed a lot of people.  Now my parents have the board and the stick, and they host the mush feast about once a year, usually in February.  It is a good, cozy meal for cold weather.  Today they would call it "comfort food" but we just call it mush. :)  Below is a poem I wrote about the race to get the first meatball, just for fun.

Mush Race

O meatball centerpiece,
soft pyramid of treasures
hand-rolled and soaked
in velvet red tradition.

I long to reach you,
first, before the others.
Before we taste the golden
depth of our journey

and forget about the race.

Man, I have to get out there for one of these.  And I will totally kick some ass getting to one of those meatballs!   Game on!

As you can see, even at 95, Grandpa can still wield the Polenta Pole.

Grandpa with grandson Greg.

Now these pictures are from 2007.  I just happened to have them in The Archives:
Spreading the mush is a manly task!

This is what the final result looks like.  I’d hate to have to eat all the way in from the end of the table.  I'd never win the race.

Thank you to Grandpa and Angela, for this fine tutorial!

Ciao!  (Or maybe in this case… “Chow!”)