Monday, May 25, 2009

Goodbye Old Friend

I had to banish an old friend today… A friend that had been there for me through thick and thin, to whose bosom I rushed whenever I had to forget my daily troubles. Sadly, my friend had worn out his usefulness and I had him taken away.
No, it wasn’t just Darth. It was my old reliable 32” Toshiba. The times had just passed him by and a younger, sleeker model caught my eye.

Hello, new friend!

This is my new friend, the Samsung 46” LCD. I think I’ll call him Samson. (It would have been just “Sammy”, but I already have one of those.)

Oh how I love your smooth lines. So much more picture to love and a remote as long as my arm. I’ve already seen one hockey game with you and it was life changing. We are going to party, my friend.

No wussy chick flicks on you, Samson. It’s going to be nothing but sports and action flicks. I’ll have Independence Day running on a 24-hour loop, with Rambo in the Picture in Picture. Maybe once in a while, I’ll switch to a cooking show, while they celebrate Bacon Week. Yeah, life with Samson will be great.

Still, Toshiba and I have been through a lot together. We met back in 1993 or ’94, back when I lived in Albany NY and was married. (Cold chill runs down back.)

Man, we’ve seen a lot of history. We’ve seen three Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl runs, one of which still gives me nightmares but is more than made up for by the other two. We’ve seen countless Steelers Monday Nighters and playoff games. We’ve seen hundreds of Penguins hockey games, most of which came in the last three years when I’ve had the NHL Center Ice package. We’ve seen the Orioles suck for 11 straight years. Haven’t seen many Pirates games, but that’s probably a blessing.

We’ve seen 4 sets of Olympic games. So many sights there… Kerri Strug sticking a vault on one leg, Brandy Chastain nailing down a soccer gold and becoming the poster-girl for buff women, Michael Phelps winning every medal in sight, even with a little help from his friends. There was Tonya and Nancy going head to head or knee to knee for skating gold, as well as countless other twisting and spinning ballerinas with blades on their feet.

We’ve seen the entire run of ER and Friends and all of 24 and Lost so far. We’ve seen series finales of NYPD Blue, Seinfeld and countless other quality shows that came and went; torpedoed by the lowest common denominator demands of the American public.

And there’s been history!

We’ve seen four Presidential elections: half thrilling, half nauseating. We choked back tears watching Diana’s funeral. We wept openly the afternoon of 9/11. We’ve seen Jon Stewart make mincemeat of the powerful and pretentious, making us laugh till we cry the good kind of tears.

So it wasn’t at all an easy decision to upgrade. Toshiba probably would have lasted many more years. But progress is inevitable and 3-years free financing is a powerful argument. I woke up on Saturday knowing I would be greeting my new and promising friend Samson and any apprehensions I may have had flew right out the window when the Best Buy guys brought that giant box in the door. They set him up, hoisted the remote into my hand and wished me well.

Into the manual I flew, wanting to know everything I could about my new friend. After some stops and starts, I got the DVD, the Wii and the surround sound into working order.

Now, let’s see what she’s got!

OK, not so fast. Sadly, I failed to realize that regardless of Samson’s broadcasting prowess, it was still a Saturday afternoon, meaning there wasn’t shit on TV (unless you count golf, which isn’t as much TV as it is the best cure for insomnia, right next to NASCAR).


OK, let’s check out the “E” channel and their special on “The Best and Worst Beach Bodies.” We’ll start working on making new history later.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bail To The Chief

My man James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers is taking a lot of flack lately, because of his choosing not to go with his teammates to the White House and meet President Obama.

First of all he was
quoted as saying, "This is how I feel -- if you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don't win the Super Bowl. As far as I'm concerned, he would've invited Arizona if they had won.”

I think he’s missing the point a bit, but OK, whatever you want to do, James. I saw the film of him saying that, and I just get the idea that it was the first thing that popped into his head. He does have a history of messing with the press. So maybe he has other reasons. Like his agent said, “It absolutely is not political. He just doesn't want to go.”

What really puzzles me is wondering why, exactly, this is a story that’s being reported in dozens of news sources? Is this really news? It wasn’t news when he didn’t go with the team to meet the President after Super Bowl XL. So what if he’s had a couple of outstanding seasons since then? It’s the exact same choice now as then.

I say, just let James be James. He has his reasons and he doesn’t have to explain them to any of us. The only thing he needs to do is justify his new gargantuan contract by continuing to play like a monster. This video shows you why James is a big deal. And I can tell you the exact moment I became a big Harrison fan… it’s at the 2:57 mark.

Then there’s this other shining moment…

(Ed Reed is still wishing someone would answer that damned phone.)

Maybe one day, he’ll look back on this as a missed opportunity and regret that he didn’t just go along. But either way, that’s his problem.

I’d really hate to see this entire hullabaloo turn him off from talking to the press. He had one of my all time favorite sports quotes back in January of 2008, after the Steelers lost to the Jaguars in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Jags’ QB ran 30 yards on a 4th and 3, blatantly aided by an uncalled holding penalty. They were holding the rushers all night but on this play one of their lineman was holding Larry Foote like a wedding usher as the runner went by. Hell, I could see it even from MY vantage-point:
The next day, when asked about the non-calls, Harrison said "I have nothing to say about that. I ain't got no fine money to give away for talking about them blind refs, so I got nothing to say."

That kind of eloquence should never be silenced.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Musical Memory Lane

Do you ever hear a group or a song and have it immediately take you back to another time and place in your life? That happens to me all the time. Music just has a way of zooming past right reason, directly into your subconscious. One minute I’m driving to work, the next I’m a little kid listening to the car radio and fighting with my brother and sister.

Here are a handful of my associations, right off the top of my head:

Simon & Garfunkel – Anything from “Bridge Over Troubled Water”: I was in probably 4th grade, living outside Chicago. Mom began playing this album all the time and it bugged me because it replaced the soundtrack to “Hair”, which she previously played all the time. “Hair” was much more fun, although I eventually grew to love S&G.

Carole King – Anything from “Tapestry”: I’m in 5th grade; we live in Bexley Ohio, driving to or from the grocery store in our brown 1960 Rambler (named “The Bomb”). Carole King was on the radio every 15 minutes back then… she was inescapable.

Anything by Bob Seger: We had just moved to Toledo from Columbus and were still getting used to everything being so far away, so we spent much more time in the car driving to the store and whatnot. Bob Seger is from Detroit, so we also had to get used to hearing him on the radio every 15 minutes, coming from the tinny AM radio in our yellow Jeep Wagoneer (named “Jaundice”). “Turn the Page”, however, always calls back the drunken sing-a-longs, standing arm in arm around the bar during our infamous Barn Parties.

Boston – “More Than a Feeling”: Driving to school in my buddy John’s beat up VW bug. You could see the road through the floorboards, but the speakers were good. I always remember the clarity of the high-hats ringing out as the song faded out. That album was brilliantly engineered in 1976, and still holds up today.

Rod Stewart – “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”: Summer of 1979, driving down to Findlay Ohio with my buddy Rik, to see some girls. It was the disco era and Rockin’ Rod put out this steamy, thumping single that was definitely the soundtrack to our horndog activities. Rik’s girlfriend lived in Findlay and had a friend that wanted to meet me, so we hit the road in hot pursuit. I can still remember my Dad’s parting words of advice: “Be careful now… I don’t need any more mouths to feed.”

Molly Hatchet – “Flirting With Disaster”: Flying down Monclova Rd. heading for Dale’s Bar in Maumee. Wide open 2-lane highway, a great driving song on the radio and good times on my mind.

Anything by Pat Benatar: My college girlfriend was friends with a bunch of women’s softball jocks who worshipped at the altar of Pat. Benatar was played for pre-game psych-up and boyfriend break-up. When Pat came on, you best watch your ass, buddy.

The Cars first album: Pop perfection… I wore that cassette tape out on my daily commutes to and from Bowling Green. It got to be so predictable it was like, “hmm, if “Moving in Stereo” is on, I must be in Haskins.”

REO Speedwagon – Hi Infidelity: Totally belongs to said college girlfriend. “Keep On Lovin’ You” was totally ‘our song’, as I suppose it was for many, many others in 1980. We used to put that on the turntable in her basement (along with James Taylor’s “Greatest Hits” and Doobie Bros. “Minute by Minute”) and make out like crazed weasels.

Anything by AC/DC but especially the old stuff with Bon Scott: Barn Parties! Jamming in long, sweaty “performances” imitating Angus Young and invariably waking up with a stiff neck. (Click the vid below to see Angus play and you'll see what I mean.) Busting out the AC/DC at a Barn Party was the sign that the party was at its peak. No sense bringing out the heavy artillery too early… Best. Party. Band. Ever.

There are also a ton of concert memories, having seen them 5 times, but those are stories for another time.

Meat Loaf – Paradise by the Dashboard Lights: College parties and dances, grabbing a partner and acting out the whole thing. That whole album “Bat Out of Hell” was phenomenal and I was just getting into it about that time. In fact, when I wasn’t playing The Cars on the way to school, I was playing “Bat Out of Hell”, especially if the weather was bad. I used to think, “If I’m going to buy it on this stretch of road outside of Haskins, I might as well go out to some good music.” It sort of became my good luck charm that way… when the snow came down, I put on Bat Out of Hell, because I knew The Loaf would get me home. I wanted to tell him that story back when I met him in 1993, but chickened out.

George Thorogood: I remember coming home late on a Saturday night and my Dad was watching Saturday Night Live. He said, “You gotta see the musical act…” George was on and he’d already played “Bad to the Bone”, but I waited long enough to see him come back and play “Back to Wentzville”. I will never forget seeing him rocking that big white Gibson while I pretended not to be drunk.
The next week I was picking out the records for my shift on WBGU radio and the jock before me was playing “One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer.” I was like, damn, this guy’s good… I went out and started buying Thorogood albums immediately. You can always count on George. It occurred to me last year, as I was seeing him live for the umpteenth time, “if cavemen could rock, they’d play George Thorogood.

Joan Jett – “Bad Reputation” album: Doing one of my radio shifts and having our Program Director come in and whip this album on me and say “check this out!” The cover showed this tough looking leather chick… I scanned the song list… “Do Ya Wanna Touch Me?” I’m like, “that’s sounds interesting…” I put it on the turntable to cue it up and caught that opening riff and went, “Oh yeah… that’s the one.” Been a Joan fan ever since.

Joan memory Pt 2: Years later, I was at a listening party for “Up Your Alley” and I got to meet her as the sound system was blasting “I Hate Myself for Loving You”. I told her “I can’t wait to get this in the car!”
That song still crunches, and whenever I hear it, I have to think of getting to spend a couple minutes schmoozing with the Queen of Rock.