Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Road Trip Bluz

Big doings, this past weekend! Solo road trip to Pittsburgh! Whoo Hoo! Had a wedding Saturday night and the Steelers/Chargers game Sunday night.

The trip did not start off very well. I was about 20 miles away from home when I realized I left a bag… my briefcase bag, with the wedding card and check, my camera and some other stuff I needed to bring my parents.

It was a wonder I remembered at all. I was going along and was not very happy with the way my CD was playing… I’ll pick up the train of thought there…

“Well, I could always bail on the CD and put on my MP-3 player. Did I bring that? Yeah, it’s right in my bag, which is right here beside me on the AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH SHIT!”

Remember the guy in The Godfather that wakes up with the horse head in his bed?
That was me going down I-70, only with more cursing.

I briefly considered not going back and just mailing the card after the fact, but I really wanted my camera. Because what’s the point of going anywhere if I can’t document it for my blog? So I turned back to get my bag, which cost me about 45 minutes in travel time. I drove pissed the rest of the way, probably averaging about 80 mph. But it’s a pretty easy drive from Baltimore; nothing but highway until Pittsburgh.

Now let me get this out there, right off the bat. I’m very nervous any time I’m driving in Pittsburgh. My family moved from the Burgh when I was 6, so I never grew up finding my way around there. And in visiting my relatives, I’ve generally just gone straight there and out again, rarely venturing through dahntahn. Any city built around a triangle is bound to give you navigational problems.

You know what it’s like there… you make one slip and you’re sailing down a ramp to someplace you don’t want to go, and start sounding like Rodney Dangerfield on the boat in Caddyshack, going, “Over there… I wanna go over there!”
I was heading to my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Moon Township and my goal was to come in the Parkway East through town, take the Ft Duquesne bridge, go up along the river and cross over at Sewickley. So as I was rolling in, I glanced at my Google Map directions and saw that I need to be on Rt. 51. Right as I was lined up to go over to the Ft. Duquesne Bridge, I saw a sign that said “Rt 51, left lane.”

I yanked the car back to the left and next thing I knew, I’m sailing down a ramp to someplace I don’t want to go, namely, the Ft. Pitt Bridge. It was then I realized that I don’t want to be on 51 until AFTER I go up Rt. 65 to Sewickley. Cue the second batch of screaming.

But all was not lost. I realized that if I just follow 51 I’d eventually wind up where I wanted to be. I’ve been on the route along 51 a number of times before, but never while driving. I knew I’d have to go through McKee’s Rocks and 51 had a couple of turns thrown in. Happily, I managed to pull it out and get to my destination.

The bonus was that I got to go in and say, “Yeah, I came through ‘The Rocks’… not on purpose, but still…”

They were still keeping some lunch for me when I got there. Unfortunately, I’d already eaten at Wendy’s on the way, knowing it would be a while before dinner would come at the wedding reception. Naturally, I turned down all offers of food from my Aunt.

So I’m sitting there eating lunch again and remembering how much I love cold cuts on fresh Italian bread, as well as just how hard it is to refuse food in an Italian family.

While re-eating, I got to hear a new story from my brother, about Sammy, his 4-year old. Seems he was on the phone with his wife and he heard her say, “Now Sam, quit playing around with the door.”

Then he clearly heard Sam proclaim, “Screw the door!”

Sam knew he was in for it because he immediately ran upstairs to hide under his bed.
This is Sam. I at least give him bonus points for correct usage, and extra credit for not using a particular synonym.

The wedding was very nice. I’m not going to go into a bunch of details or anything. Wedding stuff is only interesting to those involved. But just let me touch on a couple of random things that occurred to me during the night.
* They had a piano in the hallway outside the ballroom, where the pre-reception cocktail party was. I’m a major music geek, but sadly have absolutely no aptitude for playing music. It’s kind of like a secret code that I just can’t crack. I would so love to be That Guy that can stroll up to a piano anywhere and just start banging out something awesome. Or just sing bawdy saloon songs… whatever. If only to be like this guy…

That’s my other problem… I have no patience for scales and training stuff. I want to play like this right off the bat. It’s probably the same reason I’ve never learned to play my guitar. If I can’t sound like Stevie Ray, what’s the point?

* I haven’t been to very many swanky weddings, so I was wondering if this was common:
Chair condoms. Are those for practicing safe sitting?

* My family is predominantly Italian, but the mother of the groom is Lebanese and had a number of her relatives in attendance. Which is all fine and good until the
ululation starts. Every time something good happens: “yahyahyahyahyahyahyahyahyahyah!”

The bride and groom kiss: “yahyahyahyahyahyahyahyahyahyah!”

A picture of one of the Lebanese relatives comes up on the slide show: “yahyahyahyahyahyahyahyahyahyah!”

Server brings the entrĂ©e to the table: “yahyahyahyahyahyahyahyahyahyah!”
They also had a big round of the Lebanese dancing. And I thought those disco remixes from the 80’s went long… Really though, I thought it was all pretty cool. But still I couldn’t help but wish for a little “Zooma Zooma baccala…”

* Whenever I go to a wedding, I can’t help but think back to mine. Yes, I was married once, back in the day. (cold chill runs up spine) The marriage may not have been all it was cracked up to be, but the reception was one of the best nights of my life. I had my best friends from home, my work friends and my family all together to eat, drink, dance and celebrate, and no one had to serve or clean up!

As a guy that spent his life working in the music business (up to that point) I had some very specific idea of the music I wanted played. There was to be no chicken dance, no hokey pokey, no other dance where you were given orders on what to do. (I did cave and allow the Electric Slide.)

There would be blues, however. There would be Stevie Ray, and Albert Collins, Lonnie Mack, Koko Taylor, Katie Webster and George Thorogood. There would be AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, Louis Armstrong and Just a Gigolo.

I told the DJ, “This will be the easiest gig you’ll ever play. Here’s a tape for cocktail hour. Here’s another tape for dinner hour. (I had a mixing board at home and my hobby was making mix tapes, a skill I learned doing college radio.) Here are the songs I want. If you don’t have them, I do.”

The first DJs I talked to didn’t like that idea. “We’re the best judge of what we should play… you’re buying our experience,” they said.

“Next!” I said.

The second guy said, “You’re the boss!”

I said, “Done!”

I had a lot of songs that were meaningful to a number of different factions of our guest list and most were not your traditional wedding songs. But I knew how to play for a party and I knew my people. We had a grand time. And do you know how I knew it was a blast? After all the food was served and cleared, and the party was blowing full scale, I looked over by the kitchen door and saw 3 or 4 of the servers totally getting down and dancing.

Too bad it was all downhill from that night… But no regrets. Live and learn.

Coming tomorrow: Day 2 of the Bluz Road Trip… The Steelers/Chargers game!

Sneak preview: The mojo totally worked… Right up until we left with 7 minutes to go and a 21 point lead. Gah!


  1. First day sounds like it was a blast. See, if you wouldn't have been detered by leaving the bag at home, you may have had a more smooth drive, but perhaps you would not have emerged cool enough to say "You came through the 'Rocks". Things happen for a reason.

    I laughed out loud about the ululation. I'd never heard of this, and can not imagine how ... interesting that was.

    Can't wait to hear about day two...

  2. My dad always used to say, "Oh, we came through The Rocks..." It always sounded so cool. I'd think, "Hey, I wanna go through The Rocks... I just don't know where they are."

    I had the hardest time trying to spell the ululation sound... I'm not sure if it works or not, but did you ever watch Xena: Princess Warrior? She used to make a battle cry sound and it's a lot like that. Only a giant Amazon woman doesn't normally cut you in two with a broadsword afterwards.

  3. God, I've lived in and around Pittsburgh for 4 years now and I still have a horrible time driving. It's all those damn bridges and one way (narrow) streets. But if you can master Pittsburgh, you can drive anywhere. Chicago? No problem. New York? Piece of cake.

    Can't wait to hear about part two of your adventure!

  4. What a hoot hearing about all this from you! You know you have 'Burg' in your blood when you can say "Yeah, I came through the Rocks." Don't be silly. Next question.

    You know, I grew up in Moon Township. The threads of the Internet, how they draw us near. :)

    The thought of "Zooma, Zooma" had me rolling! And...I love the Boogie, Woogie video. But "chair condums"? Stop, already, you're killin' me! Just promise that if you ever get married again some of us blogging buddies can be invited. That's one I wouldn't want to miss! Great to have you back.

  5. The groom's Mom, of Lebanese descent, is an excellent belly dancer and expert with the castanets but she didn't do her show. Didn't want to upstage the bride, I guess.
    After an hour of Radio Free Beirut, I was indeed ready for "Zooma Zooma".
    Your wedding tapes are always on my machine, "Songs of Love", "Songs of Joy". You don't need to get married again. Your music is always all good.

  6. Carly:
    We lived for 2 years near Chicago, and mom was just saying this weekend how easy it was to get around. Was the same when we lived in Ohio. Nice squared layout. 3 rights would always bring you back to where you started.

    If I ever get married again, it will be in a park somewhere and I will throw it open to all my blogging brothers and sisters! Ought to get some good write-ups out of it, no?

    And there is no doubt... there has always been Burgh Blood in my family.

  7. "Chair Condoms" FunnY! The only place I've seen those is my wife's grandmother's house.

    We'll be posting the links post again. We'll get you on there.

    Bring Back Pluto
    "ONE of THE GUYS"


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