Reporting, Recording and Relaying - But Always Telling It As I See It

Sunday, July 31, 2011

ELO, Ola Brunkert and the Travesty of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Quick, how many top twenty singles did the band ELO have? Quicker, who the hell is Ola Brunkert? On Friday afternoon, in the sweltering heat of a Westlake, Ohio, garage sale, I met the only man (possibly on the planet) who knew the answer to both.

My wife was holding a garage sale at her dad’s place, and things were moving along as expected. A few older ladies browsed the jewelry; a young couple looked at the car seats and one guy rolled up in a jeep asking for ammo.

Nothing was out of the ordinary when the couple got out of their dated Olds 88 and sauntered up the driveway. She was dressed in an Ohio Lottery tee shirt and the longest denim skirt I had ever seen, and he wore a Rush 2011 Tour shirt, stretched to within an inch of its life over his belly. That Rush shirt was my undoing. I am an unabashed Rush fan and figured that since I was in the city that housed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the fact that Rush has somehow been overlooked for induction, I would break up my heretofore routine of saying, “sure, I’ll take twenty-five cents for that,” by asking him about Rush.

“Hey,” I said, “did you see Rush this year?”

“Saw them in Columbus at Nationwide Arena!” Now I realized I was talking to Westlake’s version of John Goodman. He was big and loud and spoke in pronouncements – everything with an exclamation. It was like being on the set of The Big Lebowski.

“Can you believe they’re not in the Hall?” I asked.

“I know! But can you believe ELO is not in the Hall? That band was a juggernaut!” He would say that line a four more times in the next ten minutes. I don’t think I have ever used the word “juggernaut” in a sentence, but he wielded it like Ron Popeil wields that big fire-resistant oven glove in his Showtime Standard Rotisserie infomercials.

Pseudo John Goodman went on to say, “I was a DJ at Baldwin-Wallace College (my wife’s alma mater) in the late seventies, and every week I would have a poll. Who was the best band; ELO, Zeppelin or Aersosmith? Every week it was the same thing, ELO won by a landslide! They were a juggernaut! They’ve had nineteen top twenty singles!”

I noticed that when he spoke, he never looked at me. He always tilted his head slightly backward as if staring off into the heaven of the rock gods.

“You have to induct these bands before people start dying, man. Look at Boston. Brad Delp is dead, now. How can they not be in? And even if they get inducted, they aren’t Boston without him!”

“Somehow, they let Abba in. But even that sucked because Ola Brunkert was dead. He wouldn’t have died if he lived in a bigger city. Bled to death right there in his garden because he couldn’t get good medical care.”

(Ola Brunkert was Abba’s drummer who did indeed bleed to death after falling through a door window. He died on the island of Majorca. I have no comment on their medical facilities. I would like say, however, that I never thought I would hear about this in father-in-laws driveway.)

Eventually, his wife bargained her way into two plastic containers. But the rock savant was not finished. “Right now,” he said, “Jeff Lynne is holed up in a house in Elyria (Ohio) with Joe Walsh working on a record. Later, man.”

It was a cryptic finale. With that, his wife stuffed the containers into the back seat of their car and they drove off.

My son ambled over and said, “Dad, he really wants ELO to be in the Hall of Fame. What do you think he does in his spare time?”

“Considers the effect of AK47 fire on the Hall of Fame’s glass fa├žade,” I told him.

(Shamefully, I Googled his stat on ELO and they did indeed have nineteen top twenty singles. I found no mention of inadequate medical care on Majorca.)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Empire State Says, "We Do."

Today, the state of New York began marrying gay couples. Also today, several local and state employees have quit their jobs because they felt that issuing marriage licenses to homosexuals would violate their religious beliefs. I wonder what part of their religious belief covers issuing marriage licenses to people who have a fifty percent (or so) chance of having their marriage end in divorce. It’s probably nowhere near that silly part about “do unto other as you would have them do unto you.”

In the spring of 1995, my future wife, Bonnie, and I walked into the Cuyahoga County Courthouse, presented some identification, paid a fee and walked out several minutes later with our marriage license. We weren’t asked if we loved each other. Hell, we weren’t even asked if we knew each other. We did, however, have opposing sexual organs, and were therefore granted the right to be legally married.

Therefore, the standard for determining the qualification for marriage was, and largely continues to be, the premise that a penis marries a vagina. It’s not love or commitment or support. I mean, if those things were important, wouldn’t the state ask?

It is certainly within the rights of those employees to quit, as it is within anyone’s right to be against gay marriage. But isn’t there a higher standard in this country that above all of this is the right of individual freedom and the sharing in the bounty of those freedoms? There are a lot of things I don’t like (men who beat their wives but are allowed to get married comes to mind), but that doesn’t give me some moral prerogative to co-op the liberty of others.

If the framers of our constitution made one mistake it was not including the following language: “And above all else, mind your own business.” But absent of this, I am pretty sure our country can survive the inclusion of homosexuals amongst the ranks of us married folks. In the spirit of this, I would like to offer this marriage blessing I heard from a local writer one time, “go ahead, if you think there is no hell.”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How I Came To Further Appreciate Humanity Through Lady Gaga

 Damn it! Damn it, damn it, damn it! I may have fallen for Lady Gaga. There, I said it. She is supposed to represent all the things I dislike about modern pop music; manufactured, auto-tuned, processed, over-produced. Oddly, she is ALL those things, times ten. So I shouldn’t like her, right?

But then, BUT THEN! She shows up on Howard Stern. And she’s talking. She talks about drugs and how lonely they made her feel – then demurs on the subject because she “has so many young fans” and she doesn’t want them to think it is at all worth it. She talks about how she felt she “made it” not when she became the behemoth machine that is Lady Gaga, but when she was living in New York, on her own, and finally felt free to be herself – really herself. She talks about writing songs with her dad, and expressing his feelings in a way he could never do on his own.

“Okay,” I thought, “all good stuff. But she still wore a meat suit! Jack Bruce would have never worn a meat suit!”

Then she slides over to the piano, and she plays “The Edge Of Glory.”  And she can sing, I mean really sing. She has passion and poise and grace.

And I am pissed. I don’t want to like her. I want to mock her. But I can’t. Behind all the costumes and the eccentric behavior is an artist. An artist who I am sure hears the rants of people like me, and then promptly ignores all of it to follow her path – the one she is so sure of. (How many of us can say that? How many of us have the guts to do that?)

I won’t be buying Lady Gaga tickets anytime soon, or downloading any of her songs. But I will remember this: we have to get over ourselves sometimes. We probably don’t know as much as we think we do- especially about other people. I thought Lady Gaga was a cartoon. She’s not, and it sucks that I didn’t take the time to find out.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

When Your Key Fob Dies (Exercises In Futility)

I now get into my car using a crowbar. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but it sure as hell feels like it.

A few days ago my key fob died. I know, at best my complaining makes me a whiner. At worst a narcissistic elitist. But really, this is a pain in the ass. For those of you who scoff, I ask, do you search for the remote for days on end before you turn the television on at the set? Exactly.

When the key fob stopped working, (and by the way, where did the word“fob” come from?  I feel dirty even saying it.) I put all of my mechanical and electrical knowledge into high gear. That is to say, I pressed the buttons really hard. This is as foolish as turning the knob on a lamp really quickly when the bulb is burned out in hopes that somehow you can conjure the thing to work.

This wouldn’t be more than a minor inconvenience if you could use a key somewhat effectively to access your car. But you can’t. Car companies have reaped millions in savings by removing all but the driver’s side key mechanisms. As a result, regardless of what door you want to open, you have to first open the driver’s side, where the sole remaining keyhole exists.

The end result is that you find yourself opening and closing doors endlessly just to get a gym bag out of the cargo area. Do you leave the driver’s door open when you go to the back? Do you close it? Shit, I locked the doors. Open the door again. What did I want? Should I just crawl over the seats to the back? Maybe I should just forget about even going to gym!

I did try the obvious, changing the battery. This didn’t work and marked the exhaustion of my expertise. Unless there is a switch that is in the off position and should be “on” I am pretty useless. (The only other method I know of to repair things is to unplug something and plug it back in, hopeful that the tech fairy can work his magic. Oddly, this is an amazingly effective technique.)

Just so happens, I have to take my car in for service next week. The front end makes frightening sounds when disturbed by the slightest deviation in the roadway – since I live in Pennsylvania, this happens every ten feet or so. In the mean time, I have moved my seat as far back as possible and will keep everything on my lap.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gettinginthecar-aphobia (But we are getting there.)

It’s not that our new dog, Haley, dislikes riding in cars, she just dislikes the whole “getting in and out of the car” thing. And I mean “dislike” the way you would dislike the thought of a colonoscopy at a teaching hospital the day after the staff Christmas party.

Haley is sixty-two pounds of puppy muscle and excitement, so when she decides she doesn’t want to do something; she reacts by pulling on her leash. Forcefully. This must have been how the Secret Service felt when trying to keep Clinton reigned on Presidential visits to South Beach. This was the situation I found myself in last night while I was trying to get her in the car to go to the dog park. I tried everything; tossed her tennis ball in the car, tried to lead her to it with treats – hell, I would have strapped on Lady Gaga’s meat suit if it would have helped. I was determined to take her, so I figured I would just have to pick her up. Dogs have an uncanny ability to add significant weight when you try to lift them. I am figuring Haley imbued about three hundred pounds right there on the garage floor.

We can deal with the neurosis. Haley is about a year old. She was one of nine abandoned dogs found living in a house with no owner. God only knows what went on before she was rescued. Her journey to us started at the Orphans of the Storm shelter in February. In June she was transferred to Animal Friends and on July 5 she came home with us. So, in a year’s time, she has lived in four different places. I would imagine that in the past, every car ride meant a new and scary place.

But we think Haley is going to be just fine. She is perpetually friendly though a bit timid at times. She is getting the concept that playing fetch is a two-fold process that includes returning the ball.

Best of all, she is genuinely happy when I come home. Normally, all I am greeted with from the boys is, "what's for dinner can I have money it's not my turn to take the garbage out," then silence.  Haley bounds down the stairs with the enthusiasm of a weightlifter at a Mexican pharmacy.

Maybe she is neurotic about getting in cars – or maybe she just wants to drive. That would be fine by me; I have no problem riding in the back.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Into The Air Travel Abyss.

“Zone three passengers, you are now welcome to have your entire travel plans scuttled. You will be left wondering if anyone even remembers you are here. You will be kept in the dark as to exactly what is going on with your plane. You are free to call clogged phone numbers or wait in a line that moves with the speed of a blood engorged leech. If you do happen to get to the front of the line (though this is only possible be concocting a wrinkle in the time-space continuum) we will type furiously at the keyboard while we think of a way to further inconvenience you. Oh, and by the way, those of you with connections, you can forget about those.”

The gate agent went on to say, “We will, however, have marriage counselors standing by, if indeed you think your marriage can be saved after spending the next six hours in the boarding area together.”

“The problem,” he stated, “is that the front tire of the aircraft has a bolt stuck in it. This requires a spare tire (and not the baby spare we keep on the plane, a real tire), a mechanic and a jack. This being an airport and all means that none of these is within three hundred thousand miles of our gate. So, while the actual changing of the tire should only take about thirty minutes, getting all three here may take anywhere from ten minutes to, oh hell, we have no idea. But be sure we will not keep you informed.”

“Meyer family? Yes, yes. We have you booked on the next connection out of Charlotte at ten tonight. AND, only five and half hours after your scheduled departure! However, when you get to Charlotte, you will find that we managed to book your wife and kids on the eight o’clock flight, and you, Mr. Meyer, on the ten o’clock. This way you can plan to catch a cab while your family finally gets to sleep!”

Smiling, he continued, “What you don’t know is that you will be able to fly stand-by on the flight with you family after all. BUT, that flight we have your family booked on – that plane is delayed out of Philadelphia, so in Charlotte you can pace some more at the gate until we decide we can’t get the flight from Philadelphia in. We will pull a plane out of mothballs for you all to fly on – preferable with no bolts in the tire. Therefore, the 8:00 flight will actually leave at 8:45. When you get to Pittsburgh, your baggage will be on Belt A. But, if after everyone has retrieved their baggage and you are left alone, go to Belt B. Silly us, we put everyone’s bags on A but yours…just go to B…after you wait an extra twenty minutes and have suppressed your homicidal feelings”

The agent finished by saying, “As a special gift, the power will be out at your house when you finally get home at midnight. Then, after you realize you don’t have your house keys and are just about to drive your car through the garage to get in, the power will come on. We know you have a choice when flying, thanks again!”