Sunday, June 30, 2013

Vacation: Baseball, Fireworks and Pizza. And Beer.

First, please accept my apologies for not posting this week.  I intended to drop another post or two while I was gone, but I just… didn't.  Felt too much like work, for my surroundings.  But now, I’m home safe and sound, so let’s recap.

I want to start though, but adding a couple of things about the Mudhens game I mentioned in the last post.  I mentioned that it was Kids Run the Bases Night AND Fireworks night.  Normally, we would have left right after the game, but we take a public bus that picks us up in the neighborhood and takes us to the game and back, for a dollar.  The drawback is that they don’t leave until everything is done, including the fireworks.  So we were in for the duration.
The kids running the bases.  There was a line for this that went through the concourse from first base all the way around to the left field wall. 
They had to do something, I guess, to kill the time from when the game ended, to when it was dark enough for fireworks.  Thus is the danger of throwing a Fireworks Night at the end of June.

It did give me the chance to try out the “Fireworks” setting on my camera though.  But not that it really helped any.  I probably took 20 shots.  I got maybe one that was useful.
This is the only one that looks like what I saw.
Otherwise, all I got were:
Abstract paintings,
poorly focused color explosions,
and Toledo being attacked by jellyfish.  Or aliens.

 One other funny note… Minor league sports are great with the in-game entertainment, and the Mudhens are no different.  One of the things they had going on between innings was a Mascot Tug of War.  They brought out a little boy and girl, who couldn't have been more than 3 or 4 years old, to play Tug of War against the two mascots, giant Mudhen characters named Muddy and Mudonna.

So when the emcee said “Go,” the kids yanked and of course the mascots came tumbling forward.  “Victory” for the tots!  But then the little girl went running over to Mudonna and dove on her, throwing her arms around her neck, like she was sorry for pulling her down.  The whole ballpark nearly died from the cute.

The rest of the week was pretty slow-paced, even for a vacation.  We’d usually have a particular activity planned for the evening, and I’d just putter around during the day while John (my host, and VP of Hell No) made phone calls and “worked from home.”  I probably should have done my posts then, instead of reading all of yours.  But this is how the rest of the week went.

Rik’s boy Jacob had a baseball game so this was my opportunity to go see him play.  The kid is a real monster… 13 years old and already taller than his dad.  I expect him to pass Uncle Bluz by next summer.  Rik calls him the “Vanilla Gorilla,” but don’t let that fool you.  He’s a ridiculously nice kid.
Jacob, with his Pop, the Chairman of Fuck-Off, or as I just figured out I should call him, the “CFO.” 
Jake had a good game, going 2 for 4, including getting a hit with 2 outs in the last inning, and eventually scoring the winning run from second on a close play at home.  There was much jubilation in the land, after beating a much “better” team.  We celebrated by going out to a bar in Haskins, where the CFO’s daughter works, and I had one of the best burgers I've had in ages.  (This, despite the fact that it was Taco Night.)

This was the day to which I look forward all year long: when I take everyone in Rik and John’s families (who are available) to Myles Pizza in Bowling Green.  Back when I was at school there, I think they got more of my money than the school did.  Here’s why:
This one was black olive and mushroom.  We also had a pepperoni and sausage.
Rik and his daughter Kyrie were just back from Cleveland State, where they had gone for her freshman orientation.  Krikey!  My little blondie is going to be a college student.  Seems it was only yesterday that she was a toddler, peeing on my lap.  I’ll have more thoughts on that situation (the college, not the peeing) later this week.
If you look closely, I think you can see the pizza leaking out.  Oh, and last year when I was out there, Kyrie was still taller than Jacob.
I didn't have much room for beer after Myles, so I was forced to switch to whiskey.  It wasn't exactly a big sacrifice.

I took the leftovers back to Baltimore with me.  They’re in the fridge right now, putting a curve in the top shelf. 

This was the light day, where our biggest event was going out to Shawn’s for dinner (and drinks… duh.)  This time I was able to meet up with my friend Sherry, who joined us for the occasion.  It was good to catch up, because she’s been pretty busy with her “52 / 52” Project.  That’s where she’s doing something she’s never done before every week for a year.  (You can read about it on Facebook!)

My highlight of the night was this exchange at the table:

The CFO: That blew my skirt over my head.

Bluz: Yeah, it almost “kilt” him!

I don’t remember what we were talking about, but they almost made me go sit somewhere else.

I don’t think I can fit all of Thursday and Friday’s activities into this post, so I’m going to stop here.  I’ll have the rest of my fascinating trip here for you Tuesday night.

Up next: Tigers baseball, and the Attack of the Grandchildren

Monday, June 24, 2013

Vacation: First Intermission

Greetings from scenic Whitehouse, Ohio, Motto: Ain't I seen you around here before?

First off, I'm attempting this post via iPad, so any bizarre spellings or syntax errors are due to the Auto-correct function.  Oh, and so are all the errors in all 692 of my previous posts... Yeah, that's it...

The flight was  uneventful, if you don't count my sitting in Screaming Baby and Kicking Child Central. The 4-year old little shit behind me kicked my seat roughly every six minutes, from Baltimore clear to Detroit, no matter how often his daddy told him to stop.

If only there was more room in the overhead bins...

Meanwhile, I kept thinking back to what Pinky told me before I left: "Now be careful... You can't drink like you're a teenager any more."

To my way of thinking, I'm three times as old, so I should be able to drink three times as much.  But I kept that line of reasoning to myself.

My buddy John picked me up right on time and in no time, we were rolling dirty down I-75, heading for Toledo.  John was anxious to show off the new Bose speakers in his car, so I brought my digitally recorded CD of the Scorpions, with the Berlin Philharmonic.  My car speakers don't do it justice.  John's, however, certainly did.  As we were rocking out to "Rock You Like a Hurricane," cars in the other lanes were yelling, "Come on, turn that down... I can't hear my own passengers... With the windows UP!"

After picking up John's dad, (and turning the stereo down), Rik and his son Jake joined us at our regular haunt, Shawn's Irish Tavern.  After filling up on beer, food, and fellowship, we made a supply (beer) run and headed for the Dad Cave.

Usually my first night in town entails a long, noisy Garage Party, but Friday night also had our high school All Years Reunion.  We went to it last year, but I never saw anyone I knew from my class.  Sadly, this year was no different, so we spent the time yakking amongst ourselves, and the couple people I knew from non-school scenarios. (My buddys' assorted friends and relatives.)  

Eventually, we drifted back over to Shawn's.  We might have left earlier but John bought a lot of drink tickets at the outset, and was given more during the course of the night, so I felt we couldn't let them go to waste.  Friends don't let friends waste beer.

Saturday was pretty chill, after working it pretty hard the night before.  I got to enjoy a classic Northern Ohio thunderstorm that evening, complete with ominous clouds, giant bolts of lightning, and of course, crashing thunder.
This was the storm rolling in.  It looked much more ominous at the time.  I have better shots on my actual camera; this was all I got on the iPad.

Sunday morning, I got to reacquaint myself with a long lost friend:
My mother's nightmare... Her eldest eating Pop Tarts for breakfast.  "Revenge is mine!!"

On Sunday, we had two events scheduled.  First off, John grilled a turkey.  He had the grill lit by 9:30 and we were munching bird by 4:00.
The trick is to keep the coals on the right side, and the bird on the left. There's a vent by the coals and the smoke pipe over the turkey.  That brings the smokey heat right across, thus infusing the whole thing with a rich, hickory flavor.  Stuffed with sausage and onion, the whole thing was delectable.

I also heard there were vegetables present, but I can't confirm or deny.

There's no doubt that I wasn't the ONLY one that had enough turkey...
The Chairman of Fuck-Off, resting up for a big night.

Rik's daughter Kia came by as well.  This was the first time I got to meet her youngest, 8-month old Brogan, aka the Happiest Baby in the World.

Just look at that face!  He was like that the whole time.

Ready for the Mudhens game!

After dinner, we had a date with the Toledo Mudhens.  We sat in the last section down the left field line, before the outfield wall.  Sunday was the only day we could all make a game before the Hens went on the road, so we had to take it.  We didn't know it would be Fireworks Night, AND Kids Run the Bases Night.  I wish they would have Grownups Run the Bases night.  Probably too many drunks would face-plant along the way.  I'm not sure I could make it all the way around any more.  But when I got home and Pinky asked me how my trip was, I could say, "Well, I got to 2nd base Sunday night."

Of course I'd probably have to walk home from the airport...

I'll have more news as the week progresses.  The forecast... Lots of baseball.  We have Jake's game tonight, and a Tigers game on Thursday afternoon.  And I'm sure there will be beer sprinkled liberally throughout the week.  And tomorrow, I get to re-engage with another old friend, Myles Pizza.

This week may kill me.  Why can't I be 18 again?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Living in Concert - Part 2

In my last post, I started treading down the musical memory lane of some old concerts I went to, back in the day.  Despite not gaining a single comment, (to which I ascribe to everyone enjoying the onset of summer), today I’m picking up where I left off.

5/22/85 – George Thorogood, Toledo Sports Arena, “Maverick” tour. ($11.50)  My first of five times I’ve seen Lonesome George.  Johnny Winter was supposed to open, but I heard he backed out after poor results at the box office.  Meanwhile, Thorogood played to about 3000 people as if he were playing Madison Square Garden.

I was up at the front of the stage for this one, to the right side.  That meant I was looking left the whole time, which meant the side-stage speakers were blasting into my right ear all night.  I swear, my ears rung for three solid days.

8/21/85 – Tina Turner/Glenn Frey, Centennial Hall, Toledo, “Breaking the Rules” tour. ($15.00)  I took my mom to this one.  We had a leisurely dinner in town first, because we had all the time in the world… up until I realized I left the tickets at home.  Then the mad dash began!

September, 1985 – AC/DC w/ Yngwie Malmsteen, Toledo Sports Arena, “Fly on the Wall” tour. (comped)  My first time seeing AC/DC… I was so excited.  Went with my brother and a bunch of friends.  It was so hot in that place, my brother almost blacked out.  But what a show!  I was completely worn out afterwards.  An AC/DC show demands active participation.

10/1/85 – Stevie Ray Vaughan/Johnny Copeland, Toledo Masonic Auditorium, “Soul to Soul” tour.  I am so happy I got to see the legend, Stevie Ray, in person, on my 24th birthday.  I’d only seen him via music videos, so I had no idea how amazing his performance would be.  Dude was a real showman, playing behind his back and behind his head.

10/24/85 – John Waite/Cheap Trick, Anderson Arena, BGSU, “No Brakes” tour.  I only went because I was dating someone who idolized Cheap Trick. 

That was the last show I saw in the Toledo area.  In March of 1986, I moved to Cleveland, which proved to be a stellar place for concert-going.  They had venues of all kinds, from clubs to arenas, to a stadium.  And because all the record labels had offices there, every act on tour played Cleveland.  In my four years there, I only had to pay to go to two concerts.

4/30/86 – ZZ Top/Jimmy Barnes, Market Square Arena, Indianapolis, IN., “Afterburner” tour. ($15.00, comped)  Funny how my first Cleveland concert was a road trip to Indianapolis.  My fellow store manager, Ron, said the label would hook him up with tickets and passes if we could get to Indy.  (They’d already played Cleveland.)  Eight hours later, when we turned up at the box office, they didn't know what we were talking about.  After a few nervous moments, Ron talked to someone that got us in, but without the backstage passes.

No matter, the show was great once again.  Like last time, they played on the dashboard of the Eliminator car, which halfway through the show, evolved into a spaceship car, like on the album cover art.  It was cool as hell.

5/27/86 – 38 Special, Blossom Music Center. (comped)  This was my first show at Blossom, which is a big outdoor venue, with a covered pavilion and then open lawn seating.

8/19/86 – Elton John, Blossom Music Center, “Leather Jackets” tour. ($17.50, comped)  EJ was enjoying a resurgence, due to MTV and a popular live album.  This was the first time I heard him play “Candle in the Wind.”

10/9/86 – AC/DC w/ Loudness, Blossom Music Center, “Who Made Who” tour.  ($14.00, comped)  First of all, the opening act, Loudness, was a Japanese metal band.  They were pretty good, but it was just funny to me, when the singer said at the end of the show, “We are Roudness!  AC/DC come out and give you good time!
He was right, because AC/DC started with the best show opening I ever saw.  The stage had a series of ramps angled down from a riser behind the drummer.  The first song was “Who Made Who,” which starts out kind of subdued, with only the drummer, bass and rhythm guitar playing.  At an AC/DC show, everyone anxiously awaits Angus Young’s appearance.  So all of a sudden, a huge cheer went up when he appeared on the right side ramp.

But wait, who’s that on the left?  It was another Angus.  I was like, “WTF?”  Next thing you know, there are six Anguses (Angi?) lining the ramps, all stomping and bobbing in unison. 
I didn't know at the time that the music video for “Who Made Who” featured a crowd of Angus clones.

But then, when it was time for the lead guitar part to begin, it seemed to bust right through all the chaos.  Up from a smoke-filled glass tube, behind the drum kit, came our boy Angus, and as the other Angus clones scattered, he came scissor-kicking his way down the ramps and onto the stage.  As usual, he never stopped for the rest of the night.
This was the stage setup, with the ramps.  I had 10th row seats, so I tried to get some pictures.  But with a non-zooming 1980s-era camera, it still looked like I was sitting in the middle of the hall.

9/18/86 – John Fogerty/Bonnie Raitt, Blossom Music Center, “Eye of the Zombie” tour. ($15.00, comped, backstage passes)  This was a great double-bill.  Bonnie Raitt hadn't broken out big yet, but she would with her next album.  But she played some wicked blues on the slide guitar.  She was a real hoot to meet… I wrote about it here. 

Fogerty was only playing his solo stuff, because he still had a beef with his former label chief over the rights to the CCR material.  (It would be years before Bob Dylan talked him into playing the CCR stuff, by saying, “If you don’t start playing it, everyone is going to think that Tina Turner sang “Proud Mary.”)

11/1/86 – Sam Kinison, Hanna Theater, Cleveland, “Louder Than Hell” tour. ($12.50, comped)  I don’t think I ever laughed this hard in public, in my entire life.  Bad Sam absolutely killed!  I got to meet Sam at an in-store appearance, earlier that afternoon.

12/11/86 – Cyndi Lauper/Eddie Money, Richfield Coliseum, “True Colors” tour. ($15.00, comped)  I know, you wouldn't peg me for a Cyndi Lauper fan, but I always liked her.  But to me, Eddie Money stole the show when he busted out “Shakin” as his encore, with that big opening drum beat pounding out through the darkness before the lights came up.

3/26/87 – Pretenders/Iggy Pop, Richfield Coliseum, ($15.00, comped) Chrissie Hynde is hawt!

4/23/87 – Eric Clapton/Robert Cray, Richfield Coliseum, “August” tour. ($17.50, comped)  Great show… Phil Collins played drums for Clapton… no singing, just played the drums.  I never really understood Eric Clapton until this night.  Most of the songs of his that I knew and liked were his top 40-ish hits, like Lay Down Sally and Cocaine.  Everything changes with his second song, Cream’s “White Room.”  When it came time for the big solo, he kind of leaned back, squinted his eyes, and just tore that shit up!  I felt like that dude in the Maxell ad, with his scarf flying backward from the sound.  It was that moment that I truly understood what Clapton was all about.

7/8/87 – Jeff Healey Band, Peabody’s Down Under, Cleveland, “See the Light” tour. (comped)  Jeff Healey was that blind blues guitarist who played sitting down, with the guitar sitting face-up on his lap, and his fingers pointing down.  If you don’t recognize the music, you may remember him as the guy in the Patrick Swayze movie “Roadhouse,” who plays the blind guitarist at the Double Deuce.  (The role was based on Healey himself, who the writer saw playing in a bar in Canada.)

This was one show where I didn't worry about bringing a camera, because I knew the flash wouldn't bother him.

8/7/87 – Heart, Blossom Music Center, “Bad Animals” tour. ($17.00, comped)  (Hey, that was the day Sidney Crosby was born!  Let’s Go Pens!)  I totally fell in love with guitarist Nancy Wilson that night, just based on the way she moved on stage.  Plus, she’s gorgeous. 

8/23/87 – Tina Turner/Wang Chung, Merriwether Post Pavilion, Baltimore, “Foreign Affair” tour.  Saw this show while visiting my parents in Baltimore.  Then on 9/9/87, I saw the same show at Blossom.  I tell you, Tina Turner is a force of nature and an incredible performer at her age, or ANY age, really.

To be continued…

Director’s DVD Commentary: Tomorrow, I’m heading for the farmland of NW Ohio and that last bastion of guy-hood that is my buddy John’s garage.  My plan is to continue to post from there, so I can share our exploits and carnivorous adventures along the way.  I’ll probably pick up the concert trail again in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Living in Concert

My post last week about my first concert experiences got me thinking about how big going to a concert was in my young adulthood.  I have to admit; I've been thoroughly spoiled.  Working in record stores and for a record retailer’s home office put a ton of tickets in my hands, most often for free.  I took advantage of that perk every chance I got.

Back in the early 90s, I went through my memory banks and ticket stub collection and wrote down every concert I could recall.  That list eventually became the spreadsheet upon which I’m going to base a couple of posts.

Between 1979 and 2008 (when I saw my last show), I've seen 103 concerts.  Sometimes my definition of a “concert” is a little loose.  I didn't count when an act would come to our record company office and play a few songs and then have lunch.  But I do count an artist playing a short set at an off-site record release party.

Statistical Analysis (because that really gets a blog post rolling…)
To further break it down, I saw 24 concerts while I lived in Toledo (just getting started in the record store), 38 shows when I lived in Cleveland, (only 2 of which I actually paid to attend), 33 in Albany NY (2 years in stores, 3 years in the home office, and 2 out of the business), and a mere 8 concerts since I've been in Baltimore.

1994 was my busiest year, with 11 concerts.  After that, I saw 10 in both 1987 and 1993, and 9 in 1985, 88, and 89. 

I’m going to do is list the shows I saw, with the dates, venue and anything noteworthy I remember about it.  Opening acts will be listed when they’re worth mentioning.  You’ll see a lot of what’s considered “Classic Rock,” but at the time, it was just Regular Rock, and I lived and breathed that shit.

7/21/79 – Toledo Speedway Jam (Blue Oyster Cult, The Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, Eddie Money ($8.00)
9/28/80 – Elton John, Centennial Hall, University of Toledo, “21 at 33” tour. ($10.00)
Covered these two in that earlier post.

11/15/81 – Rodney Dangerfield, Centennial Hall ($11.00). Rodney was my first comedy show.  The venue was having sound problems that made him hard to hear.  Someone yelled for him not to talk so fast.  Rodney was like, [Adjusting tie…] “30 years I’m working on this act, and this guy wants me to slow down…”

12/11/81 – J. Geils Band, Toledo Sports Arena, “Freeze Frame” tour.  I went with my buddy Brill, and my future roommate “Diane,” from my Summer of Bow-Chikka-Wow-Wow post. At the time, I had no idea those two would be dating in a couple years, and then that I’d take a turn as well.  J. Geils was at their peak at the time.  I was hoping they’d play “Whammer Jammer,” which is a wicked boogie-woogie instrumental featuring their incredible harmonica player.  His name is “Magic Dick,” which totally wins the Best Rock Star Name award.  When they broke into it, I remember Diane nudging me, going “Here it is!”  Dude freakin’ tore it up!
Magic Dick, in his prime.   Dude was Bad. Ass.       (Source)

5/1/82 – Charlie Daniels Band, Ohio State Fairgrounds, “Windows” tour.  ($9.00)  I went all the way to Columbus to see these guys.  Bruce, my brother-from-another-mother, lived there, so I bunked with him.  Go figure, one month later (6/7), they played the Toledo Sports Arena, so I went to see them again, with a bunch from our “Barn” crowd.

11/17/82 – Billy Squier/Nazareth, Toledo Sports Arena, “Emotions in Motion” tour.  The Sports Arena was a “general admission” venue, (meaning you could sit or stand where ever you wanted), so I remember being lined up outside the arena long before they started letting people in, and hearing the band doing the sound check.  I noticed it was really weird hearing a song without the vocals, as the band played “Everybody Wants You.”

3/22/83 – Stray Cats/Bus Boys, Anderson Arena, BGSU, “Built for Speed” tour.  Stray Cats had just debuted their first album and were a big hit with “Rock This Town,” and “Stray Cat Strut.”  The Bus Boys were the group that plays in that R&B bar Eddie Murphy goes to in the movie “48 Hours.”  I liked both groups and they were playing right there on campus while I was a student.  Had to go.  That was the show to which I took Fiancé #1, we had floor seats and she refused to stand up while everyone else was.  I didn't take her to any more shows that weren't her idea.

6/23/83 – Scorpions/Bon Jovi, Toledo Sports Arena, “Love at First Sting” tour.  This was my first time with backstage passes.  I wrote all about it here.

9/2/83 – ZZ Top/Axe, Toledo Sports Arena, Eliminator tour. ($10.50)  They’d just broken out on MTV and this was a huge show.  They played on a stage that appeared to be the dashboard of their “Eliminator” car from the videos, right down to the giant ZZ Top keychain dangling from the ignition.  This was the first of four times I saw them.

11/11/83 – Black Sabbath/Quiet Riot, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, “Born Again” tour.  We were “comped” on the tickets… my first time.  We also had backstage passes.  My work-buddy Kenny “the Viking” and I drove up to Detroit to see them.  I didn't care as much about Sabbath as I did seeing Quiet Riot.  This occasion went down in local lore over the story of how I “insulted” Sabbath’s drummer.

1/16/84 – Blue Oyster Cult/Aldo Nova/Dokken, Toledo Sports Arena, “Revolution by Night” tour. ($9.00)  I missed BOC at the Speedway Jam, and I was not disappointed with their show on this night.  They were still traveling with the big “Godzilla” monster, which leaned out from behind the backstage curtains, looked around the arena and roared, and occasionally shot laser beams out of his eyes.  It was cool as hell.  Also quite cool was Aldo Nova, who totally played his ass off.  I became a big fan.
             I can’t believe I couldn't find a single picture of BOC onstage with Godzilla.  So this will have to do.    (Source)

2/1/84 – Billy Joel, Centennial Hall, Toledo, “Innocent Man” tour. ($13.50)  This was the only other show I took fiancé #1 to, because he was her favorite.  She behaved this time out.  I thought it was cool that Billy Joel ended his show by saying “Goodnight Toledo, and don’t take any shit from anyone.”  I thought we were special, until I eventually saw that he says that after every show.  (Well, not the Toledo part…)

July 1984 – Donny Iris, unknown venue in Toledo, “The High and the Mighty” tour.  Saw Pittsburgh’s own “Dawnny Ires” with my brother at some little club whose name I can’t remember.  We got a great table right up close to the stage.  Dude has unbelievable pipes.  That summer, I mentioned this show to my Uncle Ange, and he said he used to room with Donny Iris, when they both went to Slippery Rock.  Small freakin’ world.

10/14/84 – Sammy Hagar/Krokus, Toledo Sports Arena, “VOA” tour.  I went to see Krokus, but came out a huge Sammy Hagar fan.  The guy could really tear it up.  This is when he was had that hit, “I Can’t Drive 55.”

2/22/85 – Bachman-Turner Overdrive/Rare Earth, Masonic Auditorium, Toledo. ($10.00)  I couldn't believe how good BTO sounded for a bunch of old fat guys.  Their vocals were spot-freakin-on.  I wrote about that show here.

4/9/85 – Bruce Springsteen, Pontiac Silverdome, “Born in the USA” tour. ($75.00)  This was a big one.  Bruce was HUGE at that time, having just conquered the world with the “Born in the USA” album, which spawned something like 7 #1 singles.  Notice the price of this ticket, as opposed to all the others I listed (which were ridiculously cheap by today’s standards).  My buddy Rik fell into this pair of tickets, which included the bus ride up to Pontiac, Michigan, so it was really a righteous deal. 

What a show… Bruce played for over three and a half hours.  This was probably the largest crowd I've ever been a part of, because not only were all the seats full in this big-ass dome, most of the football field was covered with people as well.  When Bruce broke into some oldies during an encore, he asked everyone to put their arms in the air.  When they did, it looked like an unbroken field of giant pink tentacles, from the top of one side, down across the field, to the other.

4/12/85 – Donny Iris/Grizzly Band, Anderson Arena, BGSU, “No Muss No Fuss” tour.  Donny played my college, so I had to go.  The bonus was I was good friends with two of the three dudes in The Grizzly Band.  Fuckers should have set me up with backstage passes, so I could talk to Donny Iris about Uncle Ange.

4/26/85 – Molly Hatchet/Blackfoot, Toledo Sports Arena, “No Guts, No Glory” tour.  (Comped)  I went to see Blackfoot and it ended up one of the great nights of my life, as I got hang out and drink beer with the drummer, as well as meet the rest of the band.  I wrote all about it here.  It’s a cryin’ shame Blackfoot broke up when they did, they could really rock it.

To be continued…

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Spitting Image

Pinky and I were watching an Orioles game this weekend, when she noticed how often baseball players spit.  (She didn't like it… at all.)  As she was pointing out the giant wad in slugger Chris Davis’s cheek, and wondering why anyone would do that, I dropped the bomb.

Did you know that I used to chew tobacco?

Yep, it’s true.  Now I haven’t done it in more than 30 years, but there was a time when I did it regularly.

Now, how does a nice suburban boy end up with a chaw in his jaw?  Road trip to Georgia, that’s how.

On spring break during after my freshman year in college, Rik and I flew down to visit our buddy Billy G in Valdosta, Georgia.  Now, Bill was a New Jersey boy, so we weren't picking up any local “flavor” from him.  But the kid that lived next door?  Dude was redneck through and through.  While we were down there, chillin’ by the pool and drinking beer, the guy got us to try some of his chewing tobacco. 

First off, let me mention that there are two basic kinds of chew.  One is “dip” style; it’s the kind that comes in the round little cans that leave a telltale ring on the user’s back pocket.  The tobacco looks like coffee grounds and the idea is to take a pinch or two and put in inside your lower lip.  They also have a “Rough Cut” in which the grains are longer, for greater ease of removal.
Skoal “Rough Cut”   (Source)

The other kind is “loose-leaf,” which looks kind of like spinach leaves.  That’s the stuff that gets packed into your cheek, in a giant wad.  With both kinds, the idea is to suck out the flavor, then spit, either on the ground or in a spit cup.  You don’t dare swallow the juice, or heaven forbid, the tobacco, or you’ll be visiting Hurl City right quick.

The neighbor started us out with some Skoal, which is a dip.  What no one ever told me about chewing tobacco was the enormous rush you get while doing it.  What’s happening is that you’re absorbing the nicotine right through the lining of your gums.  They never mentioned that on the TV commercials.

The Skoal had a nice wintergreen taste, and was pretty accessible to beginners.  “Copenhagen” is a stronger dip, that tastes more like shoe polish.  I wasn’t crazy about that stuff.  Bill’s neighbor told us that some good ol’ boys down there soaked their Copenhagen in Jack Daniels before dipping.  I think that explains why they talk so slowly down south.

Anyway, while the head rush was nice, Skoal could be kind of a problem.  The grains tended to escape from the main mass in the lip, and wander around the mouth, usually lodging right there in the front of your grill.  Then we wonder why all the chicks are gone…

Loose-leaf was a lot easier to deal with.  Once you pack it into your cheek, it stays put.  While I may have felt like The Marlboro Man, I looked more like Marlon Brando in “The Godfather.”

So it was kind of funny… This was my first trip away from home on my own.  When I left, my folks were worried that I’d come back with some kind of illicit drug habit.  When I came home chewing tobacco, I think they’d have preferred me hooked on smack.
The first thing I did was take a beer can from my beer can collection (an Iron City “Steelers” can) and cut the top off, to use as my spit cup.  Obviously, I didn't chew in the house, but The Barn wasn't off-limits.  I think everyone out in The Barn gave it a try at least once, even the girls.

I moved off the dip pretty quickly; it was just too messy, and I wasn't down with having green shit in my teeth.  I soon found a couple brands of loose-leaf that I liked: Workhorse and Beechnut Wintergreen.
There was no cancer warning, back in my day, because we were real men.

I probably chewed tobacco fairly regularly for a year or two, before the novelty wore off.  Plus, I was pretty certain it was poon repellent.  No one in Northern Ohio was particularly impressed by the rugged manliness reflected in the habit.

I think the reason I took to it was that it was different.  I don’t think I ever saw anyone in our area chewing tobacco, and I was all for being unique.  I was very involved with the idea of going against the grain and doing one’s own thing. 

After I got tired of the chew, another friend started smoking a pipe.  Not realizing that a 22-year old kid smoking a pipe looks utterly ridiculous, I dove in with both feet anyway.  Regardless of how I looked, it made me feel older, as I then went out trolling for babes with daddy issues.

What I loved about the pipe was that it smelled so damned good.  And there were a myriad of flavors you could get.  But the down side was the inevitable case of morning-after ass-mouth.  The smoke could really roach out your tongue.

I didn't stick with the pipe any longer than I did the chew.  It was basically just something else that I thought was unique.  And as a compulsive “fiddler,” it gave me something to fiddle around with when I was hanging out with my buds.  I still have the pipes now, but I haven’t used them in probably 25 years.

Like I said, I haven’t partaken in either of these two vices in ages, but I still know how.  And all this time, I’ve been dying for a situation to come up when someone is chewing tobacco and making some kind of remark about how not everyone can handle it, so I could grab it from him, take a chew and be all, “Ain’t no thang…”

Of course, then I’d be, “Hey, where did all the women go?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

That's Absurd

If you've been visiting for a while, you must know my love for absurdity.  I live for those rare moments of inspiration where I get an idea in my head and it just spirals out of control, turning into something deliciously goofy.

Sadly, that didn't happen to me today.  But as I was scratching around for something to write about tonight, I recalled a favorite bit of goofy writing I came up with long before I ever had a blog.

It was 2001 and I was a single dude living here in Baltimore.  I was about two years into the online chatroom scene, and had “met” a number of people with whom I became good friends, despite never actually meeting in person.  There was one lovely lady up in Connecticut, with whom I corresponded for quite some time.  (What, you think I was chatting up dudes?)

We emailed regularly for about 8 years, without ever meeting.  During that time, we dealt with her divorce, buying her own house, and eventually establishing a relationship with a new guy. 

In one long email on the Friday after Thanksgiving, out of nowhere, she dropped this bomb…

“I need sex!!!... OMG... did I just say that???   LOL.... just kidding... no, not really... yeah yeah... I am... Just wanted to see what your eyes would do... So... what did they do?? Describe your reaction to that phrase... LMAO... I think you first were shcocked... OMG... did you see how I just spelled that???  Freudian slip????  OMG... LMAO... I'm not even correcting it... That's too funny...”

I was highly amused, because we never talked about sex.  This was very much unlike her.  So I worked up this high-quality response, which still cracks me up.

“Lets see, what should I talk about?  Oh, I know, I'll start by apologizing for not writing last night.  You see, I couldn't write because MY EYES popped out of my head, and rolled under my computer desk.  Took me hours to find them, what with not being able to see, and all.  I'd be under there looking, and then remember why they popped out, which would cause me throw my head back in shock and amazement, and in turn,  klunk it on the bottom of the desk. 

Eventually, I'd regain consciousness, but it would be tough to tell, because I couldn't see from my eyes being out.  Anyway, after seemingly hours of feeling around, repeated klunking and waking up, I managed to find my eyes again and put them back in.  Of course, I had to wash'em off know what it's like when you get dust on your eye.

Y'know, you'd think that if you held an eye up and pointed it at something, that you'd still be able to see, but it doesn't work that way.


Go figure. But still, any further writing for the day was out.  I've always heard that computers are hard on your eyes.  I guess it's true.

Anyway, after gathering my wits and faculties about me, I only have one thing to say:

Southwest Airlines, 5 to 8 flights a day between Baltimore and Hartford, $124 or less.

It's so nice to hear when someone has a problem that I can easily help with and make better.  Always willing to help, I am....  Always at your service....  snicker...”

If I had been making more money at the time, I totally would have popped for the ticket.  I was hoping she’d “Wanna get away,” but no such luck.  I thought it was pretty selfless of me to try and solve her problem.  She probably couldn't take me seriously any more, after that “eyeball” riff.

It’s tough being both a comic and a gentleman, sometimes.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My First Concert

As you may remember, last year I was supposed to take my nephew, Daniel, to a Van Halen concert.  I had tickets in hand when the show was first postponed and then cancelled.  It would have been Daniel’s first “real” concert.  (Not including when a band plays after a ballgame.)

I was really hoping I could be a part of the boy’s first concert, which is a huge Rite of Passage.  I was thinking about that today, when my thoughts turned to my own first concert experiences.  And yes, that’s plural, because I kind of had Concert 1A and 1B.  Let me explain…

Concert 1A
When I was in high school, a lot of my classmates went to concerts but I never did.  They seemed so mysterious and fraught with peril; I was extremely hesitant to go to one myself.  Besides that, I had didn’t really have anyone close enough to attend with, like someone who had been to one before.  Lastly, I was a musical neophyte, in that I didn’t really know that much about rock music.  I was a sort of musical lightweight at the time, so there wasn’t anyone I was particularly eager to go see.

I got my concert cherry broken the summer after we graduated.  This was the Summer of The Barn, aka, the best times of my young life.  By this time, I had 4 solid buddies and place for us all to hang out.  When they announced the Toledo Speedway Jam, my buddy Billy G decided we should go.

The Speedway Jam was a big outdoor rock festival, featuring multiple bands.  In 1979, the show featured, Eddie Money, Molly Hatchet, The Outlaws, and Blue Oyster Cult, as well as a couple other lesser opening bands.  They played a daylong show on the concrete infield of the Toledo Motor Speedway.

A couple years later, that lineup would have been right in my wheelhouse, but at the time, Eddie Money was the only one knew.  I thought Molly Hatchet might have been a girl.  I knew the song “Godzilla” by BOC, but that was it.

Nevertheless, Rik and I decided to go along with Bill and see the show, and it all would have been fine if we just showed up that morning and went to the show.  But Billy had a better idea: he wanted to go the night before and party all night in the parking lot.  Being teenaged boys, we thought that was a great idea.

Two hours into our time in the parking lot, we began wondering what the hell we were thinking.  There was absolutely nothing to do.  We hadn’t brought chairs, blankets, or anything that would offer comfort or distraction.  Sleeping was nearly impossible.  Aside from three dudes trying to get comfortable in a freakin’ Chevy Vega, all the hooting and hollering from the rest of the drunks kept us wide-awake. 

There was one chick that kept shouting “Rock ‘n Rooooolll… Rock ‘n Roooollll…” All. Fucking.  Night.  Long.  It got so that when this big fight broke out between some guy and girl, I was totally hoping it was the Rock ‘n Roll girl, so that maybe she’d storm off and shut the hell up.  But no such luck.

Next morning, we made a bleary-eyed shuffle into the Speedway to go stake out a spot.  Yeah, real comfy, sitting on a concrete slab for a couple of hours.  But it was a beautiful day, without a cloud in the sky.  At first.  You know, there’s a thin line between “a beautiful day,” and “the burning, oppressive sun beating down on your tired, hung-over self.”  We also learned that our omission of “ice” left all our leftover beer undrinkable. 

Eventually the bands started to play, and that’s when the nice civilized sitting-on-the-ground atmosphere morphed into a pushing, surging, sweat-infested crowd, intent on reaching the front of the stage by shoving through anything planted between Point A and Point B.

The shows were OK.  The openers went on too long (for me), I knew a couple of Eddie Money songs, and Molly Hatchet turned out to be a shaggy Southern Rock group.  (One of the guitarists sported a t-shirt that said, “Give Me Head.”  Subtle.)

About six hours into the “fun,” as Hatchet faded into The Outlaws (of whom I had also never heard), we were thirsty, over-heated, sunburned, and I had a cracking headache.  We decided that the elements had gotten the better of us and decided to bail.  We never did see Blue Oyster Cult.

On the way home, we stopped at a 7-11 for some drinks.  I got a couple bottles of Grape Crush and let me tell you this… that first one was the best drink I ever had in my life.  I think I knocked it almost all the way back, like they do in commercials.  When I got home, I took an actual bath… probably the last bath I’ve ever taken… and nursed the second Grape Crush.  I was absolutely spent.

Like I said, it was a shame I saw that show when (and how) I did.  In the coming years, I became a fan of all of those bands.  I saw Eddie Money a couple more times when he was playing with someone else I wanted to see… once opening for Cyndi Lauper once, and with Warren Zevon open for him.  I saw BOC with Dokken and Aldo Nova opening, when they were touring with the big Godzilla monster.  (‘Zilla or not, Aldo Nova almost smoked them off the stage.)  I saw Molly Hatchet play the Toledo Sports Arena, with Blackfoot opening… that was the night I met Blackfoot and spent the evening at the bar, drinking with their drummer.  I never did get to see the Outlaws though, so I missed the epic glory “Green Grass and High Tides,” live. 

Concert 1B
It figures that Billy was involved in my next concert experience.  It was over a year after the Speedway, and Bill was back from Georgia to visit, when Elton John tickets went on sale.

I used to like Elton John in the early/mid 70s, but I kind of drifted away as he got weirder and weirder.  But he was having a resurgence in 1980 and touring again on his new hit, “Little Jeannie.”  Meanwhile, the previous summer, Bill introduced me to the “Goodbye Yellowbrick Road” album.  Well, I knew the hits from that album, but there was so much more on it that I never knew.

We were hanging out up in his room, playing records, when I first heard “Funeral for a Friend.”  I fell in love with it immediately, with the long instrumental intro, which segued into “Love Lies Bleeding.”  (A few years later, I actually wrote a college paper on the imagery that the instrumental part brought out of me.) 

The next cut was “Candle in the Wind,” and that one nailed me right between the eyes.  Remember, at that time, it was just an album cut.  It never really got famous until the 80s, when the live version became a single.  But it made me totally reconsider Marilyn Monroe as the sad, tragic figure we now know.

So even though Bill wouldn’t be there for the show, he wanted to make sure our buddy Brill and I got to see him.  He also wanted us to go camp out at the record store, the night before the tickets went on sale.  With my hard-won experience the prior year, there was no way I was going to go sleep in the car again, so we settled on showing up at 6 in the morning.

When we rolled in, our presence moved a handful of other people to get out of their cars, and start the line.  We were probably 5th or 6th in line, not that it really mattered.  Remember that this was before Ticketmaster, and the various ticket outlets, usually record stores or head shops, were given a stack of physical tickets.  Your seats would be in whatever group the ticket outlet had been given.  Regardless, we got our seats, without issue, after only a couple of hours in line.

It was funny, too, that a couple of years later, I’d be working at that same record store, although they had, alas, stopped selling tickets.

This was the first “real” concert to me, because it had the traditional atmosphere.  You know… having seats, for one, but having the lights go down, with that insane atmosphere of anticipation.

Our seats were on the side of the stage, to the right (if you were looking at it.)  I was so excited about getting to see such a Legend; someone whose body of work I knew pretty well.  So when the lights went down, we noticed that we could see the steps that lead up to the stage.  There was a flurry of activity down there, and then we saw the band taking the stage, mostly from the waist down, due to the low-level lighting.  There were these skinny little spandex-wrapped bird legs hopping up the steps, followed by one set of stumpy spandex-wrapped legs below a big fat ass… we were like, “Gaaaah!  That’s Him!

With the hall still dark, we heard the unmistakable opening to “Funeral for a Friend,” and I nearly lost my shit.  The man was opening with my favorite song, one that I wasn’t sure he’d even play at all.

As I (vaguely) recall, he played all of his hits in what was a thoroughly enjoyable show.  In fact, I had such a good time; I went to over 100 more concerts, either with friends, or alone.  Sometimes, a boy’s just gotta “Rock ‘n Rooooollll.”

So, how was your first concert?

Director’s DVD Commentary: Of course I still have the ticket stubs.  I knew I had them; the trick was finding them in this cigar box, which not only has all my concert ticket stubs, but my sporting event stubs as well.  The things I do for you…

I keep telling myself that one day, I’ll put all of these into some kind of album.  But this is me, not holding my breath.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Welcome to Bawlmer, Hon

Most cities have that one thing embedded in their culture that makes them unique, whether it’s something geographical, architectural, or just being the way they are.  Here in Baltimore, it’s the “Hons.”

Hons are female throwbacks to the 1950s and 60s.  If you've ever seen the movie (or play) Hairspray, you've seen them.  Characteristics include beehive hairdos, cat’s-eye glasses, garish makeup, feather boas, big jewelry and lots and lots of leopard-print clothing.  They are also seen in mumus and housecoats.

I don’t know if there’s an analogous male “Hon,” but if there is, it’s probably a dude in a dirty white wife-beater, plaid Bermuda shorts, beat up Orioles hat, black socks and sandals, holding a Natty Boh.

I’m not sure how they came to be called “Hons;” I assume it was due to something that’s frequently said, like, “Welcome to Baltimore, Hon,” That’s usually pronounced, “Welkum ta Bawlmer, Hawn.”

Every year, in a Baltimore neighborhood called Hampden, they put on the HonFest.  This is a weekend street-fair with food and music that celebrates all things “Hon,” including the Baltimore’s Best Hon contest.  That’s where we went today.

Hampden is the hive of Hon-dom, featuring the Hon Café, as seen on that show where Chef Gordon Ramsay comes in and yells at everyone until they do things right.  But it’s a quirky neighborhood in general, as evidenced by this sign I saw at a local hardware store.

Wouldn't it be better just to fix the screen?

They also have a permanent nod to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which makes the place A-OK with me.

They have a couple of stages set up.  The one we passed had the local School of Rock group playing. 

No sign of Jack Black though.  But regardless, these kids could rock.

Right off the bat, we were surrounded by Hons.

I’m not sure if the leopard print on the right is a gal or a dude.

These two just left the Café Hon.

We jumped into their table at the Café Hon bar (called Hon Bar, of course).  We wanted to go somewhere we could sit down.  Our table was right up in the window, so I was able to grab a couple more pictures through the window.

A Photojournalist Hon

This is not how I pictured a Hon Dude.  Apparently, HonFest is where Bawlmer comes to get their freak on, too.

After lunch, we went to the main stage to scope out the Baltimore’s Best Hon Contest talent portion.  We weren't disappointed.

We had Guitar Hon:

There was a Singing Hon:

There was Hula Hon:

Then came Clarinet Hon:

We didn't stay around long enough for any winners to be picked.  It was starting to get a little warm and our retinas were burning from the sights, so we raced home to seek the coolness of the A/C. 

So tell me, what does your town do to get its fix of “kitsch?”