Monday, May 26, 2008

I rate the fours!

It all started earlier today when I told Peggy that of the entire cast of "I Love Lucy,'' I found Lucy to be the least amusing. And then she told me how for years, the antics of Lucy have left her convulsed. This might be some sort of Rorschach test: what does it say when I rank the cast of "I L L" in this order of how-they-made-me-laugh?

#1 - Fred Mertz
#2 - Ricky Ricardo
#3 - Ethel Mertz
#4 - Lucy Ricardo

And I'm not about to say that Lucy wasn't funny. Just not as funny as gruff old Fred, exasperated Ricky or frumpy Ethel.

Beatles, you say? All right, then:
#1 - John Lennon
#2 - Ringo Starr
#3 - George Harrison
#4 - Paul McCartney

I don't think there is any question that John Lennon is tops. And who couldn't love Ringo, with his (as Tom Wolfe called it) "curious backwater adenoidal voice" ? And when Lennon was killed, George Harrison wrote "All Those Years Ago" and said he always looked up to John. Mr. McCartney, eyebrows hoisted, said "It's a drag, innit?" when asked about his late partner.

Ask me to rank the four seasons, and of course Frankie Valli is the top. But if we're talking solstices and equinoxes, please give me

#1 - Fall
#2 - Winter
#3 - Spring
#4 - Summer

I love the fall colors and the fact that fall leads to winter, which, although noticeably short on snow around here for the past several years, at least has bone-chilling cold going for it. Spring means pollen, and as soon as you get finished sneezing and infusing eye drops, better go get your shorts and your t-shirts out. Spring leads to summer as inevitably as July 4th means another Will Smith blockbuster is coming to the Googolplex.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's The Cool Thing

#1 in a series...

And not that I am considered cool by any standards, but as a longtime observer of the scenes we live by, I have a graduated scale to measure ostentatious actions. For instance, when all of a sudden our parched celebrities became conscious of the need for rehydration, every time you saw a picture of Jack Nicholson, he was carrying a bottle of water and walking around with his eyebrows raised. The actions of Nicholson are pretty much a good way to gauge what is and is not cool.

But here's a move currently being employed by singers, American Idol contestants (and there is a difference), politicians and others who enjoy moments in the spotlight as applause rains down on them like hotdog wrappers at a ballpark on Safety Patrol day: Walking through the crowd as the tumult reaches its apogee, you point your finger or chin out toward a certain person in the audience. This doublecoats the image of adoration, because it leaves the viewer thinking "wow, all those people screaming for him/her and he/she spots a good friend in the crowd and gives them a fingerwag and a little personal smile and headnod." I don't know; it's like one of those shrinkwrapped deals where you buy a bottle of mouthwash and there's a tiny sample tube of zit cream attached at the bottleneck. Here's the Famous One, awash in a sea of love, and yet there is time to acknowledge someone from the home town, or their first parole agent, or the guy who has the keys to the car outside.

And a bonus cool thing: you get a dip recipe put out by some food manufacturer...let's say Kraft...and it calls for Worcestershire sauce, cheddar cheese, sour cream and Italian seasoning. The recipe will say, in boldface, that you should use French's Worcestershire sauce and Kraft cheddar cheese and Land O'Lakes sour cream and Spiceland Italian seasoning, because their integrated horizontal marketing strategies tell them to make you feel like a cheater for using Lea & Perrins, Cracker Barrel, Safeway brand, and McCormick...but go ahead! They can't stop you! There are no brand inspectors knocking on your door! And if anyone asks why you dared to stand up to corporate America, tell 'em you did it because it's the cool thing!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Love Forever Changes

This will be a rather short diatribe, as my posts go. It's just that I feel like Frank Sinatra in that movie where he comes back from wherever he was and goes to his hometown and no one recognizes him.

Actually, it's not like that. I recognize people all the time and I run into friends, acquaintances, and far-flung kin (and I fling them again, if need be) and that's the great part about living in The Biggest Small Town On Earth. Just yesterday at Giant Food I ran into a fellow from my class in high school. We both admitted to putting on a few pounds and letting our hair gray gracefully.

No, the lack of recognition I decry is for the great band LOVE, whose legendary 1967 album Forever Changes
was recently released in expanded form, with alternate versions, outtakes and extra cuts. I feel terrible that the genius behind the band, Arthur Lee, died in August 2006 without ever receiving the acclaim that should rightly have come to him. I believe they are the best band ever because they fold so many types of music into one...rock, soul, blues, mariachi, classical - all there. Their three first albums, LOVE, Da Capo, and Forever Changes were revered by my buddies and me all through high school, and then when the band dissolved in a late-60's haze of drug troubles, crimes and misdeeds, their public support waned with everyone I know but me. Stubborn to the end, I urge you to visit and and check it out. I am also available to proselytize for the band at any venue you choose. Ask any friend of mine - I WILL play their music at the very slightest drop of a hint.

Because I never know when I'll find another convert to the cause, someone to discuss the band's lyrics, their exquisite musicianship, Arthur's vocal stylings, the whole magilla. Peggy no longer makes me listen to them with headphones only! That's progress, right?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Dayf of future paft

Back in Baltimore! Always good to be there. Peggy and I went to Williamsburg VA last week - this summer marks the 35th anniversary of the day we met, and this December will mark the 35th anniversary of our gala wedding and honeymoon in Williamsburg VA. 35 years. I love Williamsburg, if only for the olde-timey signs that tell you where the gunfmith shop or the beft jeweller is.As does every sixth-grader from here to Montana, I went to Williamsburg in the fall of 1962, and then, a scant eleven years later, there I was, a married man, back in town. We arrived on a Sunday, and I remember the man who showed us to our room. Ever the swanky boulevardier, I asked him how I could score a six-pack of beer (apparently it would have been easier to purchase Thomas Jefferson's original legal pad than to buy six cans of suds on a Sunday down South) and he regarded us curiously, asking, "Y'all just weddin'?" You bet! came the reply, and he said he'd be back. Back he was, in a trice, and he handed me a crumpled paper sack with six different frosty cans of lager and his best wishes for marital happiness! Thank you, sir! Things are still going fine.

So off we went, down the road less traveled. Route 301
begins, for us, just south of the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and takes you all the way down into deepest Virginia, and then you swing off 301 in an enchanting little burg we call Stanktown and pick up rte 30 right into Wmsbg. (I have decided, after years of going back and forth on the topic, to be one of those guys who says "we picked up 30 and took it down to 33, and then took that new cutoff..." It just sounds like you know what you're doing when you talk that way!) Now, the real name for Stanktown is West Point, Virginia. It's situated at the confluence of the York, Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers. If you'll recall the story from Animal House, Faber College was located near a grove of eraserroot bushes, a stand of pencilwood trees, and deep graphite mines, which gave rise to the pencil factory that endowed the college which educated Bluto and D. Day, among others. Well, right upstream from where all those Virginia rivers come together, there are forests just full of stenopad trees and soupbox elders, because the main occupation of residents in West Point seems to be the production of cardboard. Unless you have driven through Stanktown, you can't/won't believe how bad it smells. It's as if a hundred flatulent wet dogs were chased by two hundred skunks and then rolled around in wet cardboard, as I wrote to a friend last night. But, like people in some zombie movie, the people there seem unaware of the possibly-lethal stinkarama that envelopes them and renders air freshener and deodorant useless as we know them. The locals stroll through the miasma, playing golf, buying hair products at RiteAid, wolfing down Italian food at Maria's Italian Food Restaurant and wondering why so many cars with out-of-state tags roll up their windows as they career through town. What must it be like to sell real estate in that town, when out-of-towners get out of the car and cry, "What the hell is that odor??"

It happened again a couple of times, and I think it's time for some sort of national debate to occur on a topic that threatens to rend the fabric of America. I'm not talking about the rise in gas prices and the concomitant rise in oil company profits, assuming, as I do, that the good people in the Bush "administration" are doing their best as selfless defenders of the public weal, and turning their backs on their friends in the oil business. Surely, even as we speak, the president and his top advisors are working on a plan to lower the price of gas, just like right before the 2006 midterm elections when...what? He's not running again, nor is Cheney? Oh well, there goes that notion. And I'm going to leave the matter of the "racy" "topless" photos of Miley Cyrus
to her family to sort out. I call for a national discussion on why so many people sit in a restaurant and bellow their business out so loudly. I mean, are there so many people with hearing loss that people speaking to them have to be so clangorous? On the way down, we hit a Popeye'sin Waldorf MD. Friends, if you're like me, you love that chicken from Popeye's, and you buy it and take it home and put it down your neck with alacrity, and also red beans and rice. But there is nothing like fresh Popeye's right out of the Popeye's pressure cooker! Lord have mercy, what a lunch we had, right in the middle of the town that Joel Madden of Good Charlotte calls home (and his ex, Hilary Duff, calls "a ghetto somewhere in Maryland.") (In happier days, here they were:) But among the other finger-lickin' diners in the opulent dining room sat a man of great knowledge and experience, and while he completed his toothy bowdlerization of a four-piece dinner, he occasionally paused to deliver, at stentorian levels, a rambling discourse which covered such topics as his friend who is in the Army in Iraq ("he can call home most every night"), the performance of his truck ("she was a-stallin' on me but I took her down to the crankshaft and rebuilt her"), his experiences at a Jimmy Buffett concert ("you know the guy I mean, that 'Margaritaville' guy"), and the beaver who only recently was inhabiting his backyard pond ("my dog, she like to dive right in there after that gawdamn beaver, and then, the last time, she done lit out and I ain't seen her since.") I had to hang around for the end of the last anecdote, since I couldn't discern at first whether it was the dog or the beaver who "done lit out," but I am here to report that the dog is still around, and it was the beaver that left for parts unknown - perhaps to a new pond owned by someone with a greater understanding of pronoun reference.

And then at the Williamsburg Woodlands
where we stayed, there was a free breakfast every morning from 7 til 10:30, although Peggy pointed out that they really didn't expect guests to eat for three and a half hours. But you could! So here we were, toasting our muffins on that track-driven toaster where you place your baked goods at the upper aperture and hold your breath until, moments later, they tumble down, all golden brown from their journey through a land of red-hot coils. The hotel also served juices, cereal, fruits, coffee and tea and sweet rolls. There were a lot of middle-school kids around now, just as in 1962, but with iPods. I love kids for many reasons, one of which is they sit down and eat their breakfast and don't sit around yakety-yakking for hours on end. But some guy, a bit older than I, sat there holding court with his two friends, and again, daggone if he wasn't one or two decibels louder than that emotional man who talks about the stock market on CNBC. His talking points consisted mainly of relating whom he had spoken with last, and about what, but I lost interest, there being a total lack of beaver stories in his repertoire.

We had a great time in Williamsburg. For the most part, it's a quiet town, and from not one of the colonial kitchens did we hear "Kashmir"
blasting out as we dined. And I'm pleased to report that I fought back the impulse to purchase one of those three-cornered hats to wear around. That's one of those things that are pretty cool to do while you're there but once you get home and unpack it, what do you do with it? Either put it in the back of the closet or get a job as drummer for Paul Revere and the Raiders, and either way, you're out $27.50.