Monday, February 23, 2015

Living in Concert, Part 4

In June of 2013, I wrote a couple of posts listing the concerts I’ve attended.  The next month, I did a third installment, but my progress stopped there, so because I really don’t have anything else burning up my brain pan, I figured I’d go through another chunk.  During this time period, I was still managing a record store and living in Cleveland.

3/18/89 – Cinderella/Winger/Bulletboys, Richfield Coliseum, Long Winter tour. (16.00 comped)  I went to see this one solely because my girlfriend at the time was really into Cinderella.  I hardly knew their music at the time, but I like them a lot better now.  I got backstage passes, but the gf was too star-struck to even speak to them.

6/16/89 – Meat Loaf, Nautica Soundstage, Cleveland.  Blind Before I Stop tour.  ($11.00)  This was the first show in Cleveland I ever had to pay for, but this was The Loaf!  Totally worth it.  (At eleven bucks??  LOL  That won’t even get you parking any more.)  But because Meat Loaf didn’t have a record deal at that time, there were no freebies to be had.

This was my first time seeing Meat Loaf, so I was really excited.  He’d been my favorite singer for years.  Nautica was an outdoor pavilion right on Lake Erie, so it was a pretty cool venue.  This was the only time I was ever there.

The Loaf, of course, was awesome, as we was every other time I saw him.

7/9/89 – Albert Collins, Peabody’s Down Under, Cold Snap tour.  (guest listed) I’d just seen Albert a year and a half before, but he was well worth seeing again.  I got to stand belly-up to the stage, so there were great opportunities for picture-taking.

Albert Collins, Master of the Telecaster

9/27/89 – The Rolling Stones/Living Colour, Cleveland Stadium, Steel Wheels tour. ($28.50 comped)  Another big one.  I guess they had a lot of seats to fill in Cleveland Stadium… (yes, THAT Cleveland Stadium, the cavernous antiquated field where the Browns and Indians played.)  I was offered 4 freebies, so my first call was to my boss, who was a huge Stones fan.  I took along another couple of store managers as well.

It was a great show, of course, culminating with Keef playing the guitar solo to Sympathy for the Devil, from waaaaay up at the top of the stage backdrop.

Also ended up leaning on and swaying to Ruby Tuesday with a cute girl in the row behind me.  I got her number but she was from about an hour east of town, which made her geographically unsuitable for pursuit.

10/7/89 – Texas, Peabody’s Down Under, Southside tour. (guest listed) Went with a bunch of other managers from our stores.  Texas is a Scottish band, with a twangy, pop sound and a female lead singer.  Got to meet them all backstage, and they were very nice.  (Probably because hardly anyone (but us) knew who they were.

December 1989, Joan Jett, Akron Civic Center, Up Your Alley tour. This was the only other show I had to pay for during my Cleveland years.  I’d just seen Joan the year before as an opening act, but this was the first time I got to see her headline.

So I couldn’t get a freebie but I DID have backstage passes, which led to one of my favorite experiences with Joan.  When she came down into the room, she recognized me and came right over me.  I then got to introduce my assistant manager to her, like we were old friends. 

March 1990 – Expose, Peabody’s Down Under, touring on their 2nd album. (Guest listed.)  Expose was a female dance/pop trio.  It wasn’t really my kind of music, but hey, I got offered the tickets and had nothing better to do.  Besides, they were seriously cute.  I got to hang out with them all a couple of years later, when I was working at our record retailer’s home office.

4/10/90 – Alannah Myles, Peabody’s Down Under, touring on self-titled debut album. (comped)  I had a huge crush on Alannah Myles and she was tearing it up with her song, “Black Velvet.”  She also had some harder rocking songs too, so I was only too happy to see her in person.

When I went to see Expose, I didn’t get there early enough, so I ended up about 20 feet back from the stage.  I didn’t want to make that mistake again, so this time I got there early and grabbed a spot right at the front of the stage.  Man, it’s a whole different world seeing a show from up that close.  Plus, I got a drumstick from the opening act.  (The Questionaires.)

The drummer was playing a solo on all the equipment, including the stagefront monitors, right smack in front of me.  I probably could have reached up and spun Alannah’s spur from where I was.

That was the last concert I saw in Cleveland.  But the end of 1990, I’d moved up to Albany NY, to pursue a job with the company home office.  It would take two more years of managing stores before I made the jump from nametag-wearing grunt to office dude.

The game wasn’t quite the same for store managers.  The label people didn’t need to butter us up as much as they did with the product buyers in the office.  But still, if you made your connections, they could still hook a brother up.

7/5/91 – AC/DC w/ LA Guns, Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, Razor’s Edge tour. ($20.50, comped).  Not bad for a first show in Albany.  Had to go by myself though.  It sucked not having a crew any more.  I probably should have asked one of the strippers I was hanging around with.  But once again, AC/DC was great.  You pretty much know what you’re going to get.

8/29/91 – ZZ Top w/ Extreme, Saratoga Performing Arts Center (aka SPAC), Recycler tour. ($22.50)  SPAC was an outdoor pavilion, like Blossom Music Center in Cleveland and Merriweather Post Pavilion here in Baltimore.  ZZ Top had another great, effects-laden show, including their moving sidewalk gag.  That’s where they both turn and start walking sideways across the stage, but don’t actually go anywhere.  It’s surprising at first until you realize they have a moving conveyor belt going across the front of the stage.

11/24/91 – Joan Jett w/ The Four Horsemen, Saratoga Winners, Notorious tour. (comped)  Got to meet Joan again, but because it had been a couple of years since I last saw her, I never brought up that we’d met before.  So the fact that she was so incredibly friendly with me and my assistant manager just meant that’s the way she is.
"Keep treating people right, and you’ll be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame… eventually…"

12/5/91 – The Moody Blues, Paramount Theater, Springfield Mass, Legend of a Band tour. ($25.00 comped)  By this time, I had finally made it into the home office.  Late in the day one evening, the music buyers asked a bunch of us if we wanted to go see the Moody Blues.  The show was out of state, but they got the Polygram label guy to drive us all in a van.  We ended up going through a terrible snowstorm, and barely made it to the show alive, let alone on time.

3/8/92 – Koko Taylor, Lonnie Brooks, Katie Webster, Lil Ed and Elvin Bishop, The Egg, Albany NY, Alligator 25th Anniversary tour.  This was a big blues show featuring artist from my favorite blues label, Alligator Records.  I probably could have gotten free tickets myself, but my mentor, Vinnie, basically had an open invitation.  He reserved the entire first two rows.  I had my parents come into town for the show and we got to meet all the acts.  I wrote all about that, here.

6/9/92 – Melissa Etheridge, Palace Theater, Never Enough tour. (comped) I went with my mentor Vinnie, and his girlfriend.  Great show; she really sang her ass off.  Got to meet her backstage too, and this was the first time I ever froze up with a rock star.  At the last minute, I decided that what I wanted to tell her was too hokey, and just shut my yap.

But, I got ended up getting a wife out of the deal.  Vinnie’s girlfriend enjoyed my company so much, recommended me to her friend at work.  One blind date later, we were off on a 5-year run of fun and misery.  (You can probably guess as to the proportion of each.)

8/2/92 – George Thorogood w/ Little Feat, SPAC, Boogie People tour. ($14.50 comped)  This was my first concert with Future Ex.  We got backstage passes, but George was out the door and in the car before we ever got back there.  Great show though.  Future Ex’s comment after watching George tear up the stage: “He’s wrapped pretty tight, huh?

To be continued… maybe.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The New Car Bluz

My apologies for being late posting this week.  I spent Monday and Tuesday in a mad scramble to make the best of a bad situation.  Here’s what happened.

As you may know, it’s been cold as Ann Coulter’s heart around here… Monday morning it was 3 degrees.  I know, people on the plains or in the upper Midwest get that all the time, but Baltimore rarely gets that mind-numbingly cold.

I was concerned about how my 2002 Chrysler Concorde would hold up; I think this is the coldest it’s been since I got it in 2010, and it still has its original battery.  But when I went out to the car Monday morning, it started up just fine.  (It started up OK on Sunday as well.)

About a mile into my trek to the subway, the oil light came on.  It had never done that before.  I figured the sensors must be cold and the oil extra sludgy, so I continued on my way.  I only had another 2 miles to go and hell, back in the day, I used to drive my car with the oil light on, for months.  (Granted, I was both stupid and broke back then.  I don’t mess around like that anymore.)

I thought I’d get to the subway, go to work, and then afterwards, swing by the Jiffy Lube that was right on my way home.

Right outside the turnoff to the subway lot, the car just stopped running.  I had just made a left at the light (for which I luckily didn’t have to stop).  Realizing I was right on the doorstep, so to speak, I figured I’d use the car’s momentum to glide down to the turn-in and just ease into a parking space.

What I didn’t figure was that I would have to do it without benefit of either power steering or power brakes.  So at the dead end, where I’d have to make another left into the lot, I had to wrestle the wheel around like I was cornering in an aircraft carrier.  I still wasn’t braking yet, because I wanted to keep up my forward momentum.

Then I had one last maneuver where I had to make essentially 3 rights and come to rest in an open parking spot.  That’s when it got tough, because I had practically no brakes.  I really had to stand on the pedal, so not to careen into the curb.  But somehow I managed to get it come to rest in a parking space.

Once at work, I called to arrange to have the car towed to my local garage, which is about a half mile from my apartment.  They’re a little pricy, but it’s walking distance.  Not having to bug someone for a ride is an important factor to me.

It’s funny; when you’re illegally parked, they can tow your car in a heartbeat.  But if you want your car towed, they insist on your being there.  So I asked my boss if I could work the rest of the day from home, (she said yes, because she’s a very understanding boss), so I went to meet the tow truck back at my car.

As I mentioned, the tow truck guy got my car scooped up and onto the flatbed in no time at all, and then dropped the both of us at the garage.  I left the key with the mechanics, and set about walking home.

First stop, however, was the local Chinese food place.  It was lunchtime, and “brotha’s gotta eat.”  Besides, there’s nothing better than hot and sour soup when you’ve been standing out in frozen temperatures for a while.

The garage called me later that afternoon, and told me that the “usual suspects,” the battery and alternator, were fine.  They’d have to tear into it a little deeper… which was gonna cost me.

Sigh.  But fine.  What else was I going to do?  He said it would take about 3 more hours, by which time they’d be closing, so I should probably expect to hear from them on Tuesday morning.  Because we were expecting about 5” of snow overnight, it was already likely I was going to work from home anyway, to this sealed the deal.

So, the next morning, he called with the bad news… the oil pump was broke, and with no oil in the engine, it tied right up and was kaput.  Only way to fix was to replace the entire engine, which would run between $5000 and $6000.  Given that I only spent $3300 on the entire car, I decided that it was now time for a new car.

All I had to do next was figure out which of the bazillion cars out there was the one I wanted.  I had no clue, so I just started chopping wood.  Googled used car dealers and started browsing stock.

Pretty soon, I came across a model I’d never heard of, the Chrysler 200, which was the size, body-type and price that I was looking for.  There were a bunch of them around; I just had to find the one with the right combination.

Remember when I told you about test driving a Chevy Malibu and a Ford Fusion for my job as a Fleet Manager?  That experience really helped me, because I had a pretty good basis of comparison.  I knew I didn’t fit in the Fusion very well, so I looked up the headroom stats for it, so I could make sure whichever car I chose would have a little more.  I can’t stand mashing my head into the ceiling every time I hit a bump in the road.

I almost went for a brand new model, but unfortunately, the new model had about 2” less headroom than the 2013.  Kinda bummed me out.  The 2015 had a much better electronics package.

You know, this was the first time I’d needed to buy a car from a dealership since 2004 and my, how times have changed.  Before, I’d have to go to a dealership and just look around until I found something I liked, all the while fending off over-eager salesmen.

Now, I could troll online through dealership search engines, choosing all the criteria I wanted, evaluate all the options, and find a car that fit my needs.  All without having to get out of my jammies.

Anyway, I settled on a car from a dealership that was only about 15 minutes away.  I IM’d the dealership inquiring about the car, they called me back and we set up an appointment for that afternoon.  Because I was without transport, I called Pinky to give me a ride, which she was nice enough to do.

They had the car ready for me when we got there, so we began the test drive immediately.  It was a nice ride.  I was very pleased at the prospect of finally having a car with some modern amenities.  Although one of my favorite amenities was very old fashioned.

Finally!  A clock I can figure out how to adjust for time changes!

The test drive was the easy part.  After that, it took another two and a half goddamned hours to get my paperwork done!  I guess some things never change…

The worst part was the home stretch, where the finance guy tried desperately to get me to buy a bunch of add-on benefits and warranties.  There were 4 different combination packages with stuff like extended bumper-to-bumper warranties, GAP coverage, paint and seat treatments, and Lord knows what else.

When I declined all that stuff, the finance guy went into Incredulousness Overdrive.  The whole time, I’m thinking, “This guy wouldn’t be pushing me so hard, if there wasn’t a lot more in it for THEM than there was for ME.”

He was telling me about all the stuff he had go wrong on his Dodge, once it hit 80,000 miles.  I was like, “This car has 36,000 on it and I only drive about 4,000 miles per year.  Once I hit 80,000 miles, in eleven years, then I’ll worry about big repair bills.”

You know, the last time I held the line with a sales guy like this, it was over hoses for my new washing machine.  And after bravely insisting my hoses were perfectly fine, they sprung a leak as soon as I hooked them up.  You’d think I’d have learned.

Anyway, we got the deal done and I think I got a pretty good financing rate.  I didn’t go into the week expecting to add 4 years of car payments, but that’s the way things go.  This morning, I went back to the shop to get all my crap out of the Concorde… especially my snow brush and scraper.  Got the plates off and contacted a junk yard to come pick it up.  I’ll even get a couple of Benjamins out of it. 

It just sucks that I just put 4 new tires on it last freakin’ month.  That one hurts.  And before you ask, no, they won’t fit the new car.  But whatevs… shit happens.

But at least after this shit, I got me a new car!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Debunkery - Ted Talks

I have to start this debunking with a disclaimer: I can’t independently confirm that this is an actual quote.  Here’s the quote in question:

First off, this comes from an anti-GOP group that alleges the quote came from last year’s CPAC gathering.  I went through Cruz’s entire speech and there are no references to gays at all.  Now, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have made the statement to a small group on the side, or in a personal conversation; I just can’t prove it.

So, IF the quote is accurate, let’s proceed.

What we have here is a classic case of Logical Fallacy; it’s a fairly simple one that works best on simple people.

Because B followed A, A must have caused B.”

This is a basic, Logic 101 five-alarm fallacy.  All of Cruz’s “B” statements have scores of other possible causes, probably a combination of them.  To assert that gays coming out of the closet is the root cause, well, that’s just asinine.

This is really just a case of scapegoating.  The aging, angry, white men of the GOP desperately wish it were still the pre-60s, where well-to-do white men ruled the country, people of color knew their place, women had dinner ready and did as they were told and the gays, well, there were no gays, as far as anyone could tell.  It was an idyllic time… as long as you were a well-to-do straight white male.

Now in the past, they’ve demonized African-Americans and Hispanics, but then they got their asses kicked in the 2008 and 2012 general elections.  Our country is what, 40-45% people of color now?  That’s a formidable voting bloc.  But gays?  That’s 6-10% of the population.  It’s significant, but nowhere near the numbers of other minorities.

And boy, can you ever scare people with tales of gay debauchery, so much so that if you put forth scenarios featuring child predators, graphic sexual information in schools, and lewd acts going on at every corner, you can get people to vote for a party who services the rich at the expense of the very voters who elected them.   A scapegoat is exactly what you need to distract the people you’re trying to screw, especially if you can do it under the guise of religion.

I put forth that it’s the suppression of gays that is the root cause of all this long-standing gay fear.  Until gays started coming out to friends and family in recent years, the only time middle-America saw gays were during news clips of gay pride parades.  These parades are marked by great enthusiasm and flamboyance, so that’s what people associated with “the gay lifestyle.”  They think it’s all about hordes of Freddie Mercury clones wearing ass-less chaps.

Except that’s not really it.  That’s what comes out when a person’s not allowed to be himself, out in public, other than once a year for a couple of hours.  Maybe it’s all that suppression that makes people go “over the top,” during their big moment.

So maybe if gays hadn’t been forced to stay hidden all these years, middle-Americans might have seen that they’re basically just like everyone else.  They go to work and come home and go out to eat and cut the grass and pay their taxes.  On the surface, you’d never really see anything out of the ordinary.  There would have been no need for extravagant displays of pride, no more so that in an average St. Paddy’s Day parade.

It can also explain some of the gun violence and mass shootings Ted mentioned.  Maybe if some of these kids hadn’t been beaten up every week and called “faggot” by the jocks and popular kids, they might not have felt the need to bring an automatic weapon to school and slaughter everyone in the cafeteria.

Now this is just an idea of mine; I could be full of shit.  We’ll never know.

So why do these Fox “News” and GOP types use such weak logical constructions?  Because they work when used on their base.   Look they’ve said it themselves…

This quote IS confirmed.  Omni Shoreham hotel, 2012.

Remember, this is also the same party whose Texas delegation added a plank to their platform that was against teaching critical thinking skills in high school.

The Republicans don’t want people educated; they want them pliable.  That way, weak-ass logical assertions like Cruz’s gain traction, and allow the GOP to continue use issues like religion to rig this country’s economics to ensure the rich stay rich and everyone else stays distracted with “moral” issues.

But you don’t have to take my word on that…

Monday, February 2, 2015

The SBXLIX Experience

So there was this big football game yesterday, right?  You might have heard something about it.  You might have even gone to a party held in its honor.

Me?  I just sat home, made myself an early dinner, and watched the Penguins game followed by the Super Bowl.  The Pens got their asses kicked again, and I have nothing to say about that. 

But other game… the one with the noteworthy commercials?  I was taking notes on that game, the ads and the spectacle all night long.  In fact, I was taking them directly to Twitter.  So let’s see what I said…  I’ll be damned if I can remember… it was a long, arduous day of TV watching.

It started with Idina Menzel singing the National Anthem.

One of the downfalls of Twitter is that often times, everyone gets the same idea at the same time.  Then when you read the timeline, it looks like everyone is copying off the first one.  I saw a form of this tweet all over the place, but let me assure you, I thought of it on my own.  The same goes for all the rest of the tweets.  It just looks like I’m copying, because I don’t type very fast on my little external iPad keyboard.

But I didn’t see anyone else come up with this angle…

The first commercial that got me excited wasn’t even one of the high-budget, clever ones; it was just the trailer to the new Jurassic Park.

I’ll totally be seeing that on opening weekend.

The Turbo Tax “teaparty” ad was a nice try, but kind of strained, I thought.

Really, I try to keep politics out of sports tweeting, but sometimes they just tee one up.

Judging by my last post, you’d think I’d avoid adding “gate” to scandals, but I couldn’t help myself when the Seahawks ran into the punter’s “plant” leg, which should have been a 15 yard penalty instead of 5.
I know the announcers try to be relevant and hip to the times, but seriously, Al Michaels?

“Humongous” hasn’t been in current usage since the 80s.

A lot of people were talking about having already watched most of the Super Bowl commercials in the preceding week.  Not me.

That’s like reading a spoiler article before going out to see the movie.  I’d rather be surprised.  One year during Super Bowl week, I watched one of those “All Time Best Super Bowl Commercials” shows, not knowing they were going to run the best of the new spots.  Totally ruined the viewing experience for me.

As for the game, I was pulling for the Seahawks.  Seattle is far enough away that they don’t really enter my consciousness, other when they’re acting like punks or crybabies.  And all their 12th Man bullshit?  Where were all those 12th men in Detroit for Super Bowl XL?  Disguised as Steeler fans?  Their presence there was statistically negligible.

So they’re not my favorites, but I really don’t like those cheating Patriots.  And last week, I told you why.  So I was rooting for the Hawks.

The T-Mobile/Kim Kardashian spot was an interesting idea, but I just couldn’t really process it.  Whenever I see her, all I can think is, “Is that really all one person?”

It’s like one day in 1995, she saw Jennifer Lopez’s butt and took it as a challenge.

Then there was the one everyone knew was coming… another Clydesdale and puppy spot from Budweiser.

Sure, it’s over-the-top sappy, but geez; giant horses rescue lost puppy from the big bad wolf?  Score one for Bud.

I also really liked the Coke commercial, where some geek spills his Coke into a bank of servers, and suddenly all the mean people on the internet turn over a new leaf.

I know I wasn’t the only one to bring this up, but it still occurred to me independently.

So there we were, sailing along, game things happening, snacks being eaten, parties going full steam, and then the Nationwide ad hit.

A dead kid in a Super Bowl spot?  Are they fucking kidding?  Boy, did they ever pick the wrong time to go all “serious.”

As they showed a montage of the various celebrities throughout the crowd, (meaning in the club section,) they lingered on Sir Paul McCartney.

Every so often, a political tweet would roll by my feed.  Sometimes I couldn’t help but retweet and add my two cents to the end.

The one where the shiny, happy McDonalds personnel spread “Big Mac for the Soul,” messages through free high-fat lunches, pissed me off.

Then, right before halftime, the NFL itself tried to throw a blanket over the festivities, with their highly-touted domestic violence PSA.

I’ll say this; it was an effective spot.  I just thought it killed the mood of the event (for the 2nd time of the day), and maybe it should be reserved for something less festive.  Like a Downton Abbey marathon.

But then, when you think about how Super Bowl Sunday is supposed to be the day with the highest incidence of domestic violence, maybe they were onto something.  So I guess I should just keep my big yap shut.

At least with Seattle losing, the worst they’ll do is write something mean on someone’s Frappuccino cup.

On to halftime…

When I was at SBLX in Detroit, they had the Rolling Stones stage set up and torn down so fast you barely registered the change.  You just went, “Shit, how did THAT get there?”

Still wish they’d hire an act who plays “Football Music,” (coughAC/DCcough), rather than a bunch of teenybopper bubblegum artists.  But I’ll give Katy Perry this… she knows how to make an entrance.

I wish I’d thought of this, but I didn’t, so I retweeted.

That one made me laugh out loud.

Yes, I wasn’t the only one who recognized Katy’s means of airborne transportation. But I didn’t know that at the time.

Another retweet and tack-on…

I swear, the guy couldn’t come out in favor of cheeseburgers without the Republicans claiming he hates hot dogs.  And freedom.

I think the writers of Liam Neeson’s commercial missed the key phrase.

Maybe they were just trying to be less obvious.  But for me, I don’t know the movie that well; I needed reassurance that I was getting the proper reference.  Or maybe it was just the beer.  It was getting late…

The entire game seemed to come down to the last couple of minutes, when the Patriots scored a touchdown to take a 4-point lead.  The Seahawks had 2 minutes to go and immediately received a nomination for Catch of the Year.

Then on second down at the 1 yard line, Seattle opted not to give the ball to their beast of a running back, Marshon Lynch.  Russell Wilson threw a pass up the middle, which was picked off by New England, to win the game right there.

The more I thought about it, the madder I got.

That’s a little Steelers smack talk circa 2005.

So, there you have it… the Super Bowl 49 Experience, as seen by my tweets.  See, if you would have been following me, (@DarwinfishBluz), you’d have seen all this brilliance yesterday, and you could have skipped this whole post!  Look at how much time you would have saved.

“Darwinfish2: making you more efficient since 2009.”