Monday, April 13, 2015

Pen Pals

I originally planned to include this story in the last post, but cut it for length considerations.

It kind of started at dinner with my blogging friends.  Cassie was telling stories about all the famous Pittsburgh athletes she met back when she was waiting tables.  My favorite was when Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was a rookie, he came into the place where she was working.  She had no idea who he was… in fact she went back to the kitchen and started to tell her friends about the really cute Canadian guy at her station, with nice teeth.

Maybe if she had played her cards right, she could have been Mrs. Flower by now.

So the next night, I forget how it came up, but my cousin Greg told us about his brush with fame.  (Greg, I hope it’s OK for me to pass it on here, because it’s too freakin’ cool to not tell.)

We both have another cousin, Jeff, who a number of years ago, dated a woman who was best friends with the wife of Penguins player/owner/savior/legend, Mario Lemieux.  Every so often, he’d go along when his girlfriend went to visit the Lemieux family.  The women would talk and he’d hang out with Mario, drinking wine and smoking cigars.

Sometimes, when I’d be staying with my aunt and uncle (Jeff’s parents), he’d come home late and we’d stay up and talk, after everyone else was in bed.  He told me a lot about what it’s like to hang out with Mario.  I mean, my head was practically exploding from the vicarious thrills.

So, Greg tells us that one night, he gets a call from Jeff, inviting him to a party.  He didn’t say where; he just sent him the address.  Greg went “as is,” in a tee shirt and jeans.

He knew something was up when the address he was directed to was a freakin’ mansion. 

Yes, this is the one.

I’m not sure how he got in, but he met up with Jeff and found himself among a small clutch of dudes hanging out in a wine cellar with Mario himself.

Director’s DVD Commentary: I don’t know how the destination came as a surprise… I’m sure the address had to be something like 66 Le Magnifique Way.

Greg sort of stayed off to himself, watching the scene from the sidelines.  I mean, it was like being in one of those Bud Lite “Are you up for anything?” commercials, but with better drinks and a much better celebrity.

As people began to move off, Mario took note of Greg, standing there with a look of stress and amazement on his face.  He went over to him and said, “Let’s get this out of the way.  Is there something you’d like to say to me?

I’m telling you, I’m getting shivers as I type this, because as cool as I think Mario is, it’s even cooler that he realizes the effect he has on people, especially lifelong Penguins fans.  He has the kind of presence make grown-ass men become dumbstruck.  But he was like, “I get this all the time.”

Even dogs know Mario is cool. Source

Greg went silent for a bit, collected his thoughts, and then said, “Thank you for saving the only hockey team I ever cared about.”

And with that, they moved to rejoin the rest of the party.

It’s more or less exactly what I would have said, if I were in his place.  Just, “Thank you for everything you’ve done for Pittsburgh, hockey, sick children, and hockey fans everywhere.” (And I had considerably more time to put that together.)

So… Stanley Cup Playoff hockey commences this week.  I guess that means I’d better figure out what I’m wearing.

As usual, I tracked my game jersey mojo throughout the hockey season, to find out which ones were most effective.  Unlike past year, there’s no clear favorite.  Perhaps the magic is wearing off, and it’s time to start going with t-shirts.  But here’s how it shook out:

The jersey with the best winning percentage was the “Snoop Dogg 66.”

3 wins 1 loss .750 winning percentage

It’s hard to really count that one because I only wore it four times. Before crowning a #1 Seed, I like to have a little bigger sample size.  So with that, I see this as my front runner:

6-4, .600

It’s still not great, but like I said, no single jersey really had an effect, unlike in years past.

6-7, .461

The Penguins used this one as their “3rd jersey this year, in a break from their previous blue ones.  Everyone really seems to like the way they look on the ice.  All I can say is that I wore the jersey every time the Pens wore it, and they didn’t break .500.  Not good mojo.

3-4, .428

Geno seemed to be hurt for a lot of the season, so I didn’t wear his jersey on nights he didn’t play.  But when he did play, he was definitely “score.”

Moving on to the away jerseys, this year I again used my white Sidney Crosby jersey as the workhorse.

9-8, .529

Not a lot of magic there, but then the Pens were pretty bad on the road.  That can’t be all my doing.  As a switch-off, I used the first Winter Classic jersey for away games.

3-3, .500

Might be an option if we need a big win as visitors.

Also in the running:
Black Brooks Orpik #44: 2-3, .400  Didn’t wear it often, because Brooksie’s gone. But it’s a quality jersey.

White James Neal #18: 2-3, .400  Neal’s gone too, but I don’t have many white jersey options.

White Mario Lemieux #66, with the triangle penguin logo: 1-3, .333

Blue Pensblog jersey:  0-1, .000

Blue Penguins hoodie: (worn mostly over Christmas when I had a cold and felt like shit), 6-2, .750.  Good record, but it may be too warm for a hoodie, come playoff time.  I may pull it out if nothing else works.

And lastly, while wearing no Pens mojo at all, (like Saturday night when I was at the Orioles game), 2-1, .666

Let’s go Pens!

Director’s DVD Commentary: For an outstanding article and a look at why Mario Lemieux is such a big freakin’ deal, on the occasion of his being named Pittsburgher of the Year for 2012, access this link to Pittsburgh Magazine.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Trippin' the Burgh, Part 2

We finished up at Sharp Edge around 9:30, then the Sitcom Sisters and I hit the Doubletree bar, for a night cap.  But as full as we were, we didn’t stay long, and we adjourned to our rooms for the night.

We met up the next morning at 10:45, and headed over to a restaurant/bar over by the arena, the Blue Line Grille.  Honey Google led the way.

There were plenty open tables, so we grabbed one where I could keep my eye on the door.  We needed to meet up w/ my cousin Greg, not only for “old times sake,” but because he had my ticket!

He rolled in shortly after we did, so we set out to do a little eating and power drinking on the cheap, before going in and submitting to arena prices.

Our family runs black and gold.

My bacon cheeseburger was awesome.  The fries… well, the fries certainly had “body”…

“The Giant Lump’O Fries.”

I was pretty excited to get out and get into the arena… Greg’s tickets, (courtesy of his mom’s company) were stellar.  We were sitting two rows behind the Penguins’ bench, right beside the corridor leading to and from the locker room.  I don’t think I’ve ever had better seats than that, for anything.

We got there just as warm-ups were wrapping up, so I just began snapping pictures of anyone who came by, with special attention to Kris Letang, so I could send the shots to Sitcom Kelly to use for wallpaper.  (Not on her desktop, on her actual walls.)

Kristopher Letang, wondering why he feels an eerie chill.

Shortly after this, the only thing Letang will be feeling is woozy.

The Pens’ starting lineup.

We had to pay attention though… I couldn’t get too wrapped up in taking pictures that I miss a puck come flying at me.  I was perfectly situated to take a puck to the melon, right through that gap in the glass.

This was a big game; the Pens had been on a losing streak so they needed this win.  Part of the problem was that Evgeni Malkin hadn’t been playing, resulting in a scoring drought.  He even called out his team for their lack of goals.

*Not his actual words.

During the game, the second goalie sat right in the tunnel.  The Pens’ primary goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury had started the night before, so he was the backup on this day.  I was so close to him, I could have handed him a drink.

Sitcom Kelly telescoped in on us from their perch in the upper deck. We’re on the far right, and I’m playing with my camera. Or the phone.

I’m sorry, if you put me right behind the bench, I’m going to have to spend time looking into my camera.  So sue me.

It was a tough game, as hockey games are prone to be.  In the second period, Kris Letang got slammed into the boards, bashing the back of his head.  I didn’t see the hit, but I could tell as he was helped to the locker room, that it was no leg or shoulder injury. I could actually see the birds flying around his head.  I'm sure Sitcom Kelly will take real good care of him, once he gets back into her basement pit.

During one of the period breaks, Greg and I headed up for refreshments: a couple of 24-oz Iron City Lights.  As I stood back at me seat, I realized that I couldn’t be any more “Pittsburgh” than I was at that moment.

“Ich bin eine Yinzer.”

I also stuck my hand through the railing to come up with some shots of the Penguins’ sticks, lined up alongside of me.

I’ll probably make this into some wall art, at some point.

The Pens won the game, 3-2, and Sidney Crosby was selected as one of the stars of the game.

Captain Sid, just about to hand his stick to the kid in front of me.

When the game was through, we rejoined the Sitcom Sisters and went back to the Doubletree to plot our next move.  Greg graciously agreed to chaperone us through the city to our next eating establishment, August Henry.

You know how I always go on about Pittsburgh fish sandwiches?  Seriously, I had the longest fish sandwich I have ever seen.

The picture doesn’t do it justice… that plate is about the diameter of a basketball. The bun was at least a foot long, and the fish hung out an inch on either side.

I don’t know how I even finished it. Pure determination, I guess.  Only problem was that when we went to the next bar, I had very little room left for beer.  (Although I did manage a few.)

I don’t know what time we called it a night… around 11 maybe?  The temps were in the teens by the time Greg headed home and we scurried back to the room.  The man did yeoman’s work, shepherding us around town for 12 hours.  I’ll have to thank his wife for letting him come out to play with us all day.

Before we could leave on Sunday, I had a little errand I had to run.  I told the Sitcom Sisters to sleep in and I’d meet up with them around 11, after I ran out to the west side to visit my Grandpa.

He just turned 99 in February, so I couldn’t pass up a chance to see him.  Not many people my age have a grandparent that’s still around.

While I was in town, I also had to stop by the local market, to pick up some Pittsburgh delicacies to take back home: fresh-baked Mancini’s Italian bread, and Isaly’s chip-chopped ham.

I scored enough for 2 weeks’ worth of ham sandwich dinners. 
Whoo Hoo!

I got back to the hotel right around when I’d planned, met up with the Sisters, and we were on the road by 11:00.  We made it home uneventfully, which was nice. 

Later that night, I checked out the game via DVR, (after downloading about 200 pictures), just to see if Greg and I made it on camera.

Yep, there we are, larger than life.  I mean really large. Am I smuggling pillows in there, or what?

So, all in all… great trip.  Lovely company, good friends, good food, good drink, lots of sports action, and no one got lost.

Can’t wait to do it again next year!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Trippin' the Burgh

I should probably start by apologizing for the last post.  Who knew that the day after I wrote a funny post about an incident on a plane, that some other plane would be deliberately crashed into a mountain?  Pretty sure there was no hummus involved with that one.

So onward to much lighter fare…  Last weekend, I took a road-trip out to Pittsburgh with Sitcom Kelly and her Sitcom Sister, for a Penguins game against the Phoenix Coyotes.  I was pretty excited about it on several levels, not least because this was my first chance to get the new car out on the open road for more than 5-6 miles.  She handled beautifully.  (The car, not Sitcom Kelly.)

Also, this was my first extended chance to use my iPhone and the Google Maps app, for GPS navigation.  I loved that, except every so often when the app would just drop out, I assume because of a cellular dead spot. 

We left Friday morning, and the trip was fine, once we got past the car fire that shut down I-70 just a couple miles out of town.

Naturally, I ended up behind two trucks, so I couldn’t see squat.  Luckily, it didn’t last very long; just ten minutes.  Could have been a lot worse.

Anyway, we got into the Doubletree about 2:30, and adjourned to our own rooms.  I was stoked because I ended up with a suite, with a separate bedroom and a mini-fridge.  The mini-fridge would have been perfect, had Sitcom Kelly not talked me out of bringing some beer with me.

Why would we take the trouble to go to Pittsburgh if we’re just going to sit around and drink beer in a hotel room?

I had to remind her of that, when she told me, “I thought you were bringing beer…”

We had plans to meet up with my Burgh blogging buddies at 6:30, so we had a few hours to kill.  The sisters decided to take naps, and I was going to have one too, but I wasn’t quite ready yet.  So I decided to further test my Google Maps app and ask for walking directions to a liquor store.

We got off to a shaky start.  I hate it when they start off with, “Go Southeast on Chatham St.

I mean, what am I, a Boy Scout?  How the fuck do I know which way is southeast?  You know where I am, Google, just tell me to go right or left! 

So because I started off in the wrong direction, I had to find my way around the block first, before making a 5 minute walk in 15 minutes.  It would have been fun, if it hadn’t been so cold out.

Because I didn’t want to look like a complete maroon, I had my earphones on, so that when the Google app spoke, only I heard it.  I suppose everyone that saw me just figured I was talking back and swearing at the music they thought I was listening to.

And then I had to re-adjust again because, as I learned, liquor stores in Pennsylvania don’t sell beer, only wine and liquor.  But the clerk sent me down to a bar, who could sell me a 6-pack for the room.

This time, I made it back via a more direct route, and was able to surprise the Sitcom Sisters with some beer, before we, you know… went out to drink more beer.

Our plans were to meet up with Cassie, Facie, and Tom the Carpetbagger at a place called Sharp Edge, on Penn Ave.  I was pretty sure I could get us there, but just to be safe, I thought I’d use the iPhone/earphone trick again.  Sitcom Kelly was not amused.

OK, actually, she was amused, because now she thinks I want to date my Google Maps girl, like Joaquin Phoenix in the movie “Her.”  (And if she sounded like Scarlett Johansson, I totally would!)  We spent some time over the next few days, trying to come up with a name for her. 

It had to be just right, so I wasn’t going to jump on anything right away.  I finally came up with the perfect name, by the end of the trip:  “Honey.”  Or more formally, “Honey Google.”  As in “Here Comes Honey Google.”

Or on the other hand, I should just call her “Scarlett.”

We got to Sharp Edge about 45 minutes early, which was perfect for me, because for the first time ever, I wanted to get someplace before Cassie.  Score!

It also gave me time to get familiar with the beer menu.  As you may recall, I am by no means any kind of beer connoisseur.  I’m perfectly happy with my wimpy American light beer, thankyouverymuch.  So I had Yuengling, which was fine because I’ve Yuengled before.

Cassie showed up before too long, followed quickly by Facie and then Tom.  It made me very happy to get together with my great good blogging (or in Tom’s case, Facebooking) friends.

Something about the shadow from the direct overhead lighting, makes us all look like psycho killers.  Sorry guys, I should have turned on the flash.

I had decided to go with a fish sandwich and the aforementioned Yuengling.  Naturally, Cassie couldn’t leave it at that.  She made me try her Lindeman’s Raspberry beer, which I found quite tasty.  Tasted nothing like beer though… more like bubbly Hi-C.  But ordered one for myself, just to break out of my self-imposed beer bubble.
It was kind of an odd glass… like a shot glass, all stretched out.

For my meal, I was going ‘fish sandwich’ because we’d stopped at Wendy’s for lunch on the way, and I didn’t want another burger.  But then Cassie pointed out a particular item on the menu:
Behold the bottom listing.

It was a pork burger infused with bacon and topped with Gouda, called the Piggy Bac.  I called it the “Piggy Bake” when I ordered because, well… BAC-on.  But in hindsight, it’s probably called “Piggy BACK.”  Either way though, how could I possibly resist?  It was freakin’ delish.  In fact, it was gone before I even thought to take a picture.

We spent the rest of the night drinking more beers, talking and carrying on.  Or I should say, drinking beers, listening to Cassie, and carrying on.  I swear the girl talks like she has a dozen stories in her head, trying to come out all at once.  But that’s one of the things I love about her.  I don’t have to do anything, just laugh.

In fact, it was funny… once Cassie and Facie left, Tom and the Sitcom Sisters and I just sort of sat there looking at each other, going, “Well now what do we do?”

We ended up talking about Sharknado.  I thought the producers had a couple of D&D dice with weather events on one and dangerous creatures on the other, which they rolled and ran with the result.  Tom suggested that the next one up should be Jellyfish Snowstorm, which totally cracked my shit up.

Hey, up there… What’s that?”  [Blop!]  “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!”

Oh geez, somebody better pee on Jeremy…”

Get on that, will ya Syfy Channel?

My original intention was to cover the whole weekend in this post, but I’m right about at my maximum range, and only halfway through, so I’ll be back with Part 2 later this week.  Yes, I know I could have shortened this up, but where’s the fun in that?

We drove to Pittsburgh, checked into the hotel, I took a walk, Google Maps told me where to go, then we met some friends for dinner.”  That can be the Twitter version.

In the meantime, I leave you with the words and wisdom of Sitcom Kelly, from earlier Saturday: “Which is better for an upset stomach, red or white wine?

Next up: Primo seats at the Pens game.  It’s nice to have family with connections.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Bombing a Plane

It’s getting to be that time of year when I start scrambling to get my plane tickets lined up for vacation season.  I already have my seats to go visit my parents in May. I’d just like to wait another credit card cycle before I book my annual Toledo flight.

I really don’t worry too much about flying.  I know it will be expensive, uncomfortable and inconvenient, so the bar is set pretty low for an acceptable flight.  In other words, I don’t have big expectations.

However, one recent article did catch my attention.  It seems that recently, a flight had to be aborted about a half hour after takeoff, with the plane circling back to the airport from whence it came.  Why is that?

Somebody dropped a bomb on the plane. 

Specifically, an “S-bomb.” 

In the lavatory.

Yes, somebody dropped a deuce in the can that was so bad; it polluted the passenger cabin to the extent that they had to turn the plane around and go back home.

It’s one thing to gas-bomb a car.  I mean, at least you can open the windows, unless the driver does like my brother used to when he and his buddies road-tripped to Cleveland for Steeler games, and activate the window locks just to be evil.

The plane was from England, headed for Dubai, so who knows what this guy had been eating the day before?  He could have been English, or returning home to Dubai.  I bet some bad hummus could compromise some serious airspace.  He should include his diet in a how-to manual, as in “How to Torture a Captive Audience.”  He could market it exclusively to fraternities.

On one hand, I’m as grossed out as the next person.  But on the other hand, you just have to give this guy credit.  (And is there any doubt it’s a guy?)   This dude now has a story for the ages, the next time he’s sitting around the table with his buddies.

Did I ever tell you guys about the time I stopped a plane with my ass?

Think of all the factors involved.  People crap on airplanes all the time.  But this one not only had the pervasiveness to foul the whole cabin, it had the hang time to stay a while, and not be nullified by everyone’s “scent fatigue.”  (You know, the way the smell of something fades away after a minute or two of smelling it. It’s the only reason most of us can stay on the hopper long enough to read an article or two.)

I thought an airplane’s air filtration system was supposed to completely filter all the air in the cabin every couple of minutes.  This one must have been overloaded.  I bet no one volunteered to change the filters after that flight…  All the duct-work probably blistered and corroded.

Geez, I wonder if the oxygen masks were activated.  A guy would have to claim ownership if he got the masks to drop down.

I wonder if the rest of the passengers knew who was responsible.  I’m surprised they didn’t go all Flight 93 on him and beat him to death with the drink cart.  I’m pretty sure I’d keep my head down and blame someone else, preferably someone else’s kid.  Or cat.  Played correctly, dude could have been the mack-daddy of Silent but Deadly.

When I first started out in record retail, my boss had that kind of fumigating power.  We had a back room that was huge, with the rest rooms on one side, and I swear, that guy could render the entire room uninhabitable.  We used to call him King Colon.  I’m pretty sure that whatever he produced in there had the same qualities as the acid-blood from the aliens in the “Alien” movie series.  He probably had a plumber on retainer.

We’d plead with him to please take a break and go home to do his business.   Luckily, he lived nearby.

Maybe he ate hummus too.

Anyway, I hope that plane bomb was a one-time episode, and I don’t end up witnessing number two.

Monday, March 16, 2015

In Honor of St. Paddy's Day...

…Here’s one of my favorite traditional Irish jokes.

A man stumbles up to the only other patron in a bar and asks if he could buy him a drink.

“Of course,” comes the reply.

The first man asks, “Where ye from, matey?”

“I’m from the auld sod back in Ireland,” replies the second man.

The first man responds, “Ye don’t say, I’m from Ireland too!  Let’s have another round and drink to the Emerald Isle.”

Of course, replies the second man, and the bartender pours them each another shot.

Curious, the first man continues, “Where in Ireland are ye from?”

“Dublin,” says the second man.

“I can’t believe it,” says the first man, “I’m from Dublin too!  Let’s have another drink, to Dublin!”

As the bartender lined up another round, the first man inquires further, “What school did ye go to in Dublin?”

“St. Catherine’s,” the second man replies, “Class of ’63.”

“Jaysus, Mary n’ Joseph,” exclaimed the first man, “I went to St. Catherine’s and I was in the class o' 1963 as well!  Bartender, another round for me an’ my Irish friend here.”

About that time, one of the regulars comes in and sits down at the bar.

“What’s going on tonight?” he asks the bartender.

“Same old,” the bartender says.  “The O’Malley twins are drunk again…”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  Do try not to get too caught up in the festivities… You gotta work tomorrow.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Binge-Watching Bluz

I love binge-watching TV series from DVDs… It can either be a show I’ve never seen, or a replay of shows I’ve loved from Back in the Day.  A couple weeks ago, I was re-watching Dexter, seasons three and four.  (Poor Rita…)

But when I was picking up my Dexters at the store, I spotted another video collection from my younger years. It was a show I never missed, and enjoyed well through syndication.

I’m pretty sure I started watching it during its first season; I may have missed the first couple episodes.  But I didn’t miss much after that, even if I had to set up the VCR timer to tape it while I was out.

It started in 1986.

Holy crap, nineteen eighty-freakin-six!  I was managing my first record store, in Cleveland, living in a one-bedroom apartment.  Man, LA seemed so shiny and cool to me.  Of course, living in Cleveland, Buffalo seemed shiny and cool in comparison.

But here were all these gorgeous people, wearing amazing clothes.

Well, they seemed amazing to me at the time, and miles away from anything I’d ever worn.  But it’s funny how time changes perceptions.  For men, a nice suit is still a nice suit, but the women’s clothes were definitely something out of a time capsule.  Apparently in the 80s, all the women were supposed to look like linebackers.  With the shoulder pads they were wearing, they could barely fit through a doorway.

Much like today, I totally watched shows for the babes.  Jill Eikenberry’s character, Ann Kelsey, was smokin’ hot, and in Season 1, she started dating Michael Tucker’s character, Stewart Markowitz.

This was the most unlikely couple of all time, and the only reason it worked was because Tucker and Eikenberry were married in real life.  Otherwise, no one would ever believe that the tall, gorgeous power attorney would marry the short goofy-looking tax guy. 

I loved their onscreen relationship story because it gave me hope that maybe a retail schlub like me could land the hot chick.  (I eventually realized that life does not work like a network drama.)

But there was one clear reason why I even started watching LA Law.

Holy hell, Laurie Partridge was in it, and she was all grown up!  I had a massive crush on Susan Dey, so I was always especially interested in her story lines, be it as district attorney Grace Van Owen, or her romance with Harry Hamlin’s Michael Kuzac.
No couple should be allowed to be this attractive.

It was weird when I first started re-watching the first season.  The biggest thing that hit me was how “primitive” the tech was at that time.  In 1986, there were a few “car phones” out there, but they were the size of bricks, and had to stay plugged into the car.

In looking through the law offices, there were no computer terminals on anyone’s desks; they all had typewriters.  During one episode, a local nerd tried to impress a secretary by putting multiple lines on her phone, and setting up a fax machine.

The pricing cracked me up too.  First of all, one of the attorneys went to look at a beach house… I mean, floor to ceiling glass walls, smack-dab on the beach.  The cost was around a million dollars.

Fuck, you can barely get a dump around there now for a million dollars!

And the salaries… the featured law firm started out their associates at $52,500.  (They brought in a hotshot fresh out of law school for $72,500, which made waves.)  Now granted, I would have killed to make that kind of dough in 1986, but I was just a kid in a store. I wasn’t a freakin’ lawyer in LA.

I was just happy not to be making minimum wage, which they happened to mention was $3.35.

Anyway, I spent the weekend binge-watching the second season, and this time, jotted down a few “time capsule” observations.

(I’m only 8 episodes in, and I was going to wait and do a post after I finish the season, but that would only help me next week.  I needed a topic tonight!)

* Outfits… a woman is wearing a blue, skin-tight leather body suit and the camera zooms in close as she pulls a long unzip, for (hound-dog divorce attorney) Arnie Becker.

* In 1987, guys still had chest hair. They didn’t look like boy-band refugees.

* They showed Stewart Markowitz reading a report of computer “green-bar” paper. Man, I hated that stuff…

* (Secretary) Roxanne Melman had a hardback dictionary and thesaurus on her desk.

* I miss being able to slam a phone down when I’m pissed.

* An episode featured Stewart pushing the pace of his relationship with Ann, to the point of their needing therapy.  He eventually said that he couldn’t believe he could really land such a high-quality woman that wasn’t after him for his money. (He had lots of it.)  So he expended a lot of effort to seal the deal as soon as possible, so she couldn’t get away.

It was then I realized that I was Stewart Markowitz, albeit without the money.  No wonder I liked his character so much.

* Quote: “If we did that, gas would cost three bucks a gallon, and no one would stand for that!”  I almost had a spit-take.

* One of the cases was a lawsuit against a big tobacco company, which was widely described as “unwinnable.”  I’m glad that we eventually won that one, in real life.

* So far I’ve seen two visual references to oral sex, probably the first time on TV. One scene featured a bailiff under the judge’s desk, with nothing but her shoes sticking out.  In another, Mike and Gracie are making out in her office, and he just slides down out of frame, while she stands there and gasps.

I remember seeing stuff like that the first time, going, “I can’t believe they just did that… on national television… during prime time!"  Of course, by today’s standards… meh!

* In the mid-80s, there was little “political correctness.”  In fact, when they wrote Benny Stolwicz character, he was frequently described as “mentally retarded.”  There was no judgment involved; but I had to cringe when Arnie Becker told his secretary, Roxanne, that Benny could be hired, by saying, “It’s a go on your retardo.”

* They were all “secretaries,” and not “administrative assistants.”

* In watching so many episodes back to back, I could really appreciate how they stretched out a story line.  Back then, most shows introduced the plot and a complication, and then it was wrapped up within the hour. 

On LA Law, they would take several episodes to introduce little tidbits which wouldn’t develop into a full-scale plot point until much later.  And with a 22-episode season, they could really cover a lot of ground, in depth.

The other thing I liked was that unlike most other legal dramas of the past, the home team didn’t always win. And sometimes when they did, they still lost due to unforeseen consequences.

Anyway, I’m having a ball diving back into the 80s. After this, I have Season 3 on deck. Not sure how much further into the catalog I’ll go, but it’s been fun so far.

Maybe next I should go dig up Married With Children…

Monday, March 2, 2015

Kids Can be Very Perceptive

I heard another killer story about my nephew this week, that just cracked my shit up.

I’ve told you about little Sammy before…  Like the time when he was 5 and in front of the parents of the Christian Athletic League, upon seeing a goalie putting on his pads, exclaimed, “Those are for his NUTS, Dad!

You can get away with most anything, when you have such an angelic little face.

So, Sammy plays basketball for his school in their 9-year old league, and because they have so many 9-year olds, they have them split into two teams.  My brother and Sam were at the gym, watching the “other” team play, before Sam’s own game, so he could watch some of his friends who were on that team.

One kid, “Charles,” missed a layup on which he thought he was fouled.  He proceeded to have a falling down tantrum about it right there on the court, and carried on until the coach took him out to calm him down.

A few minutes later, Charles went back in and tried to steal the ball outside the 3-point area, which is a no-no.  Upon being called with the foul, he threw himself on the court and staged another tearful tantrum until his father had to come out of the stands and take him out of the game.

Back at home, later that evening, Sam and his mother were sitting in the chairs at the kitchen “island,” while my brother told the story of this boy’s carrying on. 

When he finished, Sammy waited a beat, looked up at his parents and very calmly said, “Charles is kind of a pussy.”

They both yelled, “SAMMY!!”  Which they followed by falling out laughing.  I mean come on, how could you not?

My brother’s wife asked if he taught him that word.  He didn’t, of course, but Sammy is a boy, and boys say things and hear things on the playground that would astonish their parents.  (Well, the moms, anyway. The dads have been there.)

I’m sure my brother never taught his son that particular term, but karmically, it’s still his fault.  He may not have taught his son to talk like that, but I know he must have taught hundreds of other sons that kind of language back when HE was the 9-year old on the playground.  He used to say things in grade school that made the teenage neighbor girls gasp. Now, it’s all coming back around.

The funny thing is that Sam’s older brother, Daniel, would NEVER talk like that in front of his parents, at any age.  But Sammy has no such filter.

Sammy is nothing if not his father’s son.

Out of this whole tale, the thing that astonishes me is how a 9-year old kid would dare to have a tantrum like that during his own basketball game, in full view of his friends and their parents.  Over not getting his way!  It just doesn’t compute to me.

If I had ever pulled something like that, I would have “gotten something to cry about.”  And I doubt I would be joining any more teams, until I could show that I’d grown the hell up.

I would have been mortified to cry in front of all those people.  I mean, I can remember two occasions as a child where I cried in public, but both of them involved getting smashed in the face with a baseball.

I wonder if this behavior might come from parents always letting kids win, to feed their ego and spare their feelings. I wrote about that once before, but basically, I’m against it.  It think it gives kids an unrealistic view of their own skills, which will become a problem as soon as they step out of the house and into a real competition.  I’d rather teach my (hypothetical) kid how to lose with grace and class, than make them think they’re better than they are, or they don’t have to work hard to win at something.

I think it also helps with the parental mystique.  I mean, it should be a big freakin’ deal when you beat a parent at something.  A rite of passage, even.

Was Charles so used to “getting all the calls” around the house that he didn’t know how to react when he didn’t?

I don’t know. I don’t know anything more than what I told you. But I have my suspicions. It sounds like a Parenting Fail, to me.

But then what the hell do I know?  As “Another Childless Douche,” the only bundle of joy I’ll ever know anything about is this one:

Meanwhile, Sammy will just keep telling it like it is…

“I’ll be bahck.”

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 cause 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…