Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oh, to be hungover in Houston

On a day when the snobby elites -- and by snobby elites I mean anyone getting paid to opine -- are expounding on presidential primaries, leap year trivia and the poser power of Angelina’s right leg, I choose to celebrate nostalgia.

Who else besides me misses a really good hangover!

I knew you were out there.

Understand, I don’t mean someone else’s hangover, something we all enjoy. It’s human nature to revel in the self-inflicted misery of our fellow man. In fact, one sure hangover cure is put yourself in the vicinity of anyone whose hangover is worse than yours.

A body seems to draw strength from the suffering of another, especially if the two of you spent the previous night together getting all gassed up on the same portions of poisons.

I think it’s because we were all raised to care for any naturally sick loved one -- even when we know they’re bound to be a huge pain in the ass.

“Dear, my throat’s sore. Will you get me some tea?”

Yes, dear.

“My stomach’s upset. Will you please make me some jello?”

Of course, darling.

“Honey, I need you to come empty the slop bucket. Now!”

That’s one you learn from bitter experience that can’t wait until Tiger attempts his birdie putt.

There’s no such spiritual obligation to help the hungover. On the contrary, people think it’s acceptable to torture us.

They make loud noises intended to startle. They cook big portions of aromatic foods and insist we partake. They invent cruel situations that normally require alcohol consumption to survive -- like the forced mingling with in-laws.

I miss the pre-kid days when I could just allow the hangover to naturally dissipate.

My hangover heydays were about 15 years ago when my wife worked 9-to-5 in Pittsburgh and I worked 11-to-3:15 from home.

I’d wake up with a near-crippling hangover and surprise her by springing out of bed to do things like make her breakfast or scrape frost from her windshield.

“Wow,” she’d say. “I can’t believe you’re even upright. I figured you’d really be hurting today.”

Me? I’m fine. I plan on jogging, cleaning the gutters, re-shingling the roof . . .

If I could survive that 20-minute burst of activity it took to fool her about my condition, I’d be in the clear. The second her taillights left the driveway, she’d be on an hour-long drive to Pittsburgh and I’d be on my way to the only place a hungover man can go to recover.

Yes, I’d spend the day in TV Land. Every golden episode, from “Green Acres” to “The Munsters,” feels restorative.

I can’t afford to have wasted days like that anymore. I have responsibilities, places to be, and precocious children that jump on the bed anytime they find me alone and trying to relax in it.

That’s why I’m thinking of moving to Houston for my next bender.

This from today’s Houston Chronicle:

“City officials plan to open a ‘sobering center’ at the Star of Hope Mission downtown later this year. It would be an 84-bed facility that would allow people whose only offense is being drunk to bypass jail.

“Houston police arrest 19,000 people a year for public intoxication, racking up $4 million to $6 million in jail costs. A sobering center aims to divert drunks from jail and free up cells for more dangerous offenders. Dropping off a person at the center, instead of booking him into jail, also would let officers return to patrol more quickly.

“A person brought to the sobering center would have to stay at least four hours, until he sobers up, and would not have an arrest put on his record.”

In my dreams, I imagine everyone at the sobering center wears slippers, is never impatient with the milk shake nurse, and no one ever talks during “The Andy Griffith Show” marathon that plays in a continuous loop.

The wisdom and humanity of this solution restores my faith in a state that foisted both George W. Bush and Rick Perry onto our national conscious.

So I plan on leaving for Texas in the next day or so -- and not just because I’m looking for a good, safe place to sleep it off.

I plan on opening a tavern right next door, The Hair o’ the Dog Saloon.

Yes, America, this Otis has finally found his Mayberry!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Do turbans make men hot-headed?

I’m convinced international tensions will ease if from now on all the Korans and all the U.S. flags are constructed of flame-proof material.

The last week has proven that setting fire to symbolic items can prove to be very, well, inflammatory.

Here in America we’re so used to seeing our flag being desecrated that there is minimal outrage. In fact, rather than outrage, it seems to provoke curiosity.

Where do they get all these U.S. flags?

I’ve heard from a number of people who wondered if in these otherwise impoverished nations there are American flag shops on every street corner. Sort of like we have with Starbucks.

People in Karachi who need a quick fix can just hustle off into a little shop that sells nothing but American flags to incinerate. You could get small ones for a jiffy little jolt or get the venti latte equivalent that’s been soaked in kerosene in case some TV cameras are around and you need a really fast flame.

It’s very upsetting for many Americans.

Not so much for me because I understand you can burn the flag but not all that it stands for. We’re so much bigger than that -- at least we were until we started urinating on dead enemies and posting the pissings on YouTube.

There’s so much about the Islamic faith that bewilders. Violence seems like such an instinctual reaction to every challenge.

A cartoonist draws a satirical picture of Muhammed and it’s, “Off with his head!” A beguiling burqa-clad woman tempts her brother-in-law into raping her and it’s, “Off with her (not his) head!" And some boneheaded soldiers burn some Korans -- apparently by mistake (we hope) -- and it’s, “Off with their boneheads!”

They are everything the French -- cie la vie -- are not. The French are such a convenient punching bag here in America, but we could all do with a little more French, meaning lives spent in pursuit of good food, good wine and lots of sex.

They have a historic reputation for surrendering. Hell, we should all considering surrendering to them.

But what to do about a fanatical culture that elevates killing as the solution to so many of life’s challenges?

I’ve spent a lot of time considering how so many people practicing a religion so devoted to peace can become so hot-headed, and I think I’ve found an answer, one I’m a bit reluctant to share because I understand it’s going to come off as culturally insensitive and I don’t want any hot heads coming to slice off my head.

Why are so many Islamists so hot-headed?

It must be the turbans.

A typical turban can be as much as 10-feet long and is wrapped around the head in honor of the prophet Muhammad. It seems like a sensible garment if one were considering an afternoon of ice fishing amidst the wilds of Minnesota.

But in the arid Arab countries where Islam dominates? It makes little practical sense.

Muhammed would have been quite a prophet indeed if he could have foreseen that more than 1300 years after his death he’d still be setting fashion trends.

I think it’s better to emulate the way our deities lived than the way they dressed.

If Christians were to follow the Islamic example, then we’d see men riding the bus to work wearing crowns of thorns -- and if it happens, you can bet it’ll happen first with Rick Santorum.

It was entirely proper for President Obama to apologize for the singed holy books.

It doesn’t make us appear to be a weak nation. It makes us appear to be a considerate one.

It gives us diplomatic leverage to try and affect changes in a culture that seems so bent on earthly destruction.

We should use that leverage to have our soldiers politely ask influential Taliban leaders to consider exchanging their turbans for things like baseball caps.

See, I’m not one of those hot heads who says we should just go kill them all.

The world’s already awash in killings by scriptural experts who think nothing of shedding blood in this world in the belief it’ll earn them good standing in the next.

And, for humanity’s sake, “Off with their turbans!” is a much more nuanced battle-cry than “Off with their heads!”

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscars bore; movies suck: The Sequel!

Irony alert: Here’s a blog blasting Hollywood for being too lazy to produce anything fresh and interesting and I’m posting it on re-run Sunday because I’m feeling too lazy to produce anything fresh and interesting.

But the Oscars are tonight and the sentiments from this 2010 post still hold.

None of the nominees are compelling enough for me to watch the whole thing. I may tune in for the opening because I predict viewers and critics will savage Billy Crystal tomorrow and wouldn’t want to miss out on all the fun.

I found myself getting impatient watching the Oscars like I do when I’m obligated to attend some party with too many people I don’t like.

The guests bore me. I can’t stand the conversation. I wish I could duck out and watch a hockey game in a divey bar that’s untainted by all the stifling pretension.

And this is a party I should enjoy. These are the core people in an industry that thrills us all. And we have much in common. Like me, most of them want to help earthquake victims, support President Obama and are unruffled that so many gays are eager to engage the pitfalls of holy matrimony.

I think the problem may be that no industry builds up then dashes all my hopes the way the movie industry so consistently does.

I don’t expect much from politicians. The automotive industry with its clinging commitment to 19th century internal combustion technologies seems almost quaint in its stumbles. And, yes, the banking industry steals from us all, but they’ve yet to start shooting customers in their robberies and I’m grateful for that subtle distinction.

But going to the movies is still very special to me. I love the escape and get excited when a buzz builds that some movie is going to provide an emotional jolt that’ll stir my soul.

And, inevitably, more and more I’m let down.

The 2007 best picture winner “No Country for Old Men” should have been called “No Ending for Confusing Movie.” Loved Heath Ledger in the “The Dark Knight,” but the action scenes -- about three quarters of the lengthy flick -- were a chaotic mess.

Your highly acclaimed Erin Brockovichs, your Benjamin Buttons and Harry Potters have all left me cold.

Symptomatic of the problems is “Avatar.” I like James Cameron, loved “Alien” and “Titanic.” But no one’s said, “Man, you have to rush out and see ‘Avatar.’ It’s the greatest movie of all-time.”

Well, it’s the greatest earning movie of all time, a number that’s been inflated by 3-D premium pricing, but no one’s said it’s the greatest movie of all time.

And these are the serious films by serious artists.

I’m surprised the sheer volume dreary crap Hollywood releases each week isn’t enough to slow the earth’s daily rotation to 32 hours (and that still wouldn’t be enough hours in the day to get me to see “Avatar”).

This isn’t counting anything from the Apatow/Aniston/Sandler Axis or others who earn millions making the kinds of movies they probably used to denounce back when they had youthful credibility.

So I get angry sitting there watching Ben Stiller yucking it up, Quentin Tarantino preening and Keanu Reeves applauding Sandra Bullock like she’s just announced a cure for something itchy.

It all has me so desperate I’m thinking of drastic measures. Yes, it may be time to ditch the family contraceptives.

The very best movies I’ve seen in the past 10 years are either cartoon or computer animated.

I wholeheartedly recommend “Up,” and “The Princess and the Frog” -- two best picture nominees from last night. I’ve seen “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille,” “Finding Nemo,” “Toy Story” and “The Lion King” dozens of times and never tire of the viewing.

And I’d put “The Princess Bride,” and “Ella Enchanted” with the beguiling Anne Hathaway in that category.

I’m at my most content sitting with one of my darling daughters in my lap while watching a great children’s movie (and I’m not talking about hyper-obnoxious nonsense like “Shrek”).

And here’s a tip: it helps to be hungover. It’s like taking a nap with your eyes open.

Once the little one gets too big for that kind of cuddling, we’ll need a fresh kid or else I’ll look creepy going to see kiddie movies solo.

For the record, some of my favorite movies from the past 15 years or so are “The Big Lebowsky,” “American Gangster,” “Hot Fuzz,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Big Fish,” “Gran Torino,” “Sideways,” and “Up in the Air.”

Why more of our movies do not rise to those august artistic levels is just laziness. I know they can do better.

I hope you’ll join me in demanding more quality from the men and women who produce our movies.

And I’ll thank you in advance for not demanding the same of the people who write the blogs you read.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Twitter round-up

Does anyone ever read all this sidebar stuff to the right over here>>>>?

I hear from people who say they enjoy “Search Term of the Day.” But I wonder if anyone cares about what I’m reading, the flawed reader ticker, or -- my favorite -- the "Yoko Ono Incomprehensible Tweet of the Week.”

I hope people check out the tweets from @8days2amish. I try to keep my twitter account free of the banal. But just reading the post is what matters so please don’t feel pressure to otherwise browse. And besides I always do one of these round-ups of the best about once a month or so.

Judging by this batch, you’d think I spent a lot of the past four or five weeks watching the original “Hawaii Five-O,” the Super Bowl and lots of coverage of the Republican presidential primary.

You’d be correct. Lots of compelling news recently.

Have a great weekend and be sure to make time to be really, really lazy.

• Anyone singing "Brown Eyed Girl" at karaoke is practicing Vantriloquism.

• The day chickens start laying Cadbury eggs is the day I become a chicken farmer.

• Just heard a Conservative blast SOTU as a "bunch of hooey." Is hooey like bananas and grapes and comes in a bunch? I'd think it would be piles of hooey.

• After watching partisan bickering over President's speech, I'm convinced Tip O'Neill had it just about right: All politics is loco.

• Obama thin-skinned? I don't think it's the thickness of his skin that bothers his critics. Hmmm . . . what could it be?

• New health research says soft drinks contain flame retardants. They say it's bad. Is it? I'd like to be more flame retardant.

• I'll pray that every Haitian refugee wins their first Super Bowl ring before I pray Tom Brady wins his fourth.

• Saw Sam Elliott in an old Hawaii Five-O today. First time I've seen his upper lip. It was like glimpsing a rare albino rhino.

• You'd think varmint and peppermint would have something tasteful in common. They do not.

• Airing anti-depressant drug ads during a Three Stooges marathon seems like a gross misapplication of marketing funds.

• I never thought I'd have an opportunity to say this, but I feel like I let Gisele down.

• "Ich bin ein horny."

• As the stark, "agree or disagree" choice always leaves me waffling, I've coined a new word to describe my stance on most issues: sortagree

• America: It wasn't self-evident that all men were created equal until we said it was.

• We need a constitutional amendment that says White House interns must be at least three years older than the presidents they serve.

• This just in: Steve McGarret's middle name is Aloysius and he's a Capricorn. Hawaii Five-O for lunch is becoming an essential part of my day.

• In case anyone cares, it's been five days since the Super Bowl and I'm still praying for Tommi.

• Romantic trees can never be accused of being "too sappy."

• Very productive morning. I killed so many birds with so few stones I'm expecting PETA to protest.

• Suggested motto for the building that houses my office and the neighborhood tavern: "The Pond -- Two floors, one million stories."

• It would ease international tensions if from now on all Korans and American flags were constructed of flame-proof materials.

• Yes, still prayin’ for Tommi.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Monkeying around with bananas

I mentioned to a friend a while back that I felt self-conscious eating a banana in public, like I was afraid someone would snap a picture and invite cruel captions.

“I don’t know what you’re doing with your banana,” he said, “but you need to just bite it.”

Since last year, I’ve probably spent more time thinking about how to eat a banana than most people. That was when our 4th grader came home and said, “Look, here’s how Mr. Walker says monkeys eat bananas.”

She took a perfectly good banana, turned it upside down and squeezed the scab until it was nothing but peel and pudding.

Then she handed me the mess.

I don’t know how she expected me to react to her little demonstration. Perhaps she was hoping to engage me in some discussion of evolutionary quirks.

Instead I said, “What the hell are they teaching in school these days? Get your ass in your room and don’t come out until Mommy and me are good and drunk!”

I eat probably a banana a day. I love ‘em.

Here’s a fact: The flabby aerodynamics of a banana peel make it impossible to heave one more than 20 feet from a second story window across a tavern’s gravel parking lot.

That’s what I do with all mine. They degrade so quickly no one’s ever said, geez, how come there’s always a hazardous number of banana peels in The Pond parking lot?

I guess we can blame the Stooges for the mistaken belief that stepping on a banana peel can knock the legs out from under dimwits.

It happened all the time with the Stooges and it happened with the old battle ax played by Ethel Merman in the near-perfect 1963 screwball comedy, “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

But I’ve never seen it happen in real life. Seeing it happen to someone like Trump’s way up there on my bucket list.

I don’t know whether or not monkeys eat bananas upside down or not, but I know adding monkey to anything improves everything.

I was thinking about this as I was listening to a string of great rock monkey songs -- and wouldn’t that category improve the Grammys?

There’s “Monkey Man,” by The Stones, one of their finest; “Shock the Monkey” by Peter Gabriel; “Punish the Money” by Mark Knopfler; and the cheeky “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” by the Traveling Wilburys.

Delbert McClinton has “Monkey Around.” Chorus: “You made a man into a monkey, now that monkey’s gonna monkey around!”

I saw Bruce Springsteen monkeyin’ around with a backup singer the very night I heard him sing his great monkey song, the obscure “Part-Man, Part-Monkey.”

It was 1988, the “Tunnel of Love” tour. I remember seeing him actually making out on stage in between songs with a bandmate -- and it wasn’t Little Steven.

I know what you’re thinking: Shocking! A rock ‘n’ roll singer kissing a girl who wasn’t his wife!

Yes, my prudish friend, I remember thinking the exact same thing. At the time he was married to the luscious Julianne Philips, an ‘80s vixen who had more hair than the floor of an unswept beauty salon.

The on-stage woman with whom he was making out? Patti Scialfa, Springsteen’s wife since 1990.

“Part-Man, Part-Monkey” references the Scopes Monkey Trial and comes down squarely on the side of the chimps. And who can forget “Inherit The Wind,” the Spencer Tracy movie about the historic trial? Outstanding.

Val and I just watched another great monkey movie, 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” starring James Franco. We loved it, as did 83 percent of America’s critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

In it, the Franco character has a super-intelligent chimp for a chum. It turns out as well for him as it did for that crazy Long Island lady who owned Travis the pet chimp who attacked her friend, mauling her so badly she needed a face transplant.

It’s a horrific story and I always feel shame for chuckling when recalling the tabloid headlines that read “Furious George!”

So there you have it, a comprehensive story about bananas and monkeys.

Or as Troy McClure said on “The Simpsons” when he performed the musical version of “Planet of the Apes,” it has everything from “chimpan-A to chimpanzee!”

And now it’s time for me to peel and eat my banana. But first I’m closing the drapes.

I think we’ve all had enough monkey business for one day.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A real Pennsylvanian considers Rick Santorum

This will surprise readers familiar with my liberal leanings, but one of my political heroes is a beloved Republican. He was a common sense U.S. Senator with a southwestern Pennsylvania home not far from my own.

There are three clues in the previous paragraph that ought to make it clear I’m not talking about Rick Santorum.

He’s not beloved, he has no common sense and when he was a U.S. Senator he wasn’t anyone’s Pennsylvania neighbor.

If you love the Republican Party or want it to be a fair counterweight to its Democratic opposites, then I have some good news for you: The Rick Santorum ascendancy peaks today.

I’m confident in this prediction for two reasons: One historic, the other personal.

Historically, it has to do with the current nervous breakdown of the once Grand Old Party.

In the past four months sober majorities of Republicans have momentarily inflated the poll numbers of Michele Bachman, Rick Perry, Donald Trump and Herman Cain to frontrunner status.

Christian conservatives are just continuing their pursuit of the next non-Romney -- and how a voting demographic so enamored with one savior can always be so restlessly seeking another is mystifying.

So the Santorum bubble is on pace to begin deflating today as sensible Republicans, if any remain, understand how toxic he is to independents. He’s like Mel Gibson without any of the fun parts.

He doesn’t believe believe in evolution, contraception, global warming, public education, or the idea of having sex without procreative purposes.

I can appreciate anyone who believes life begins at conception, but I can’t conceive how anyone doesn’t appreciate, by God, what it’s like to do a little living.

The very idea of the federal government telling families what to do about personal health care issues infuriates him. I wonder if that’s what he told Terri Schiavo during his highly publicized 2005 visit to her death bed.

Seven years later it seems Santorum is again engaging in conversation with the brain dead.

Anyone who thinks his smirking brand of self-righteous demagoguery will work on a national level is living in the ‘50s -- the 1850s.

It galls me every time he trots out his alleged southwestern Pennsylvania roots to an audience (his family spent time in both Virginias before settling here).

This is a proud working class region where common sense politics usually prevail over the kind of partisan bitterness Santorum began promoting as a first-term congressman in 1991.

The final straw for most Pennsylvanians came in 2004 when Santorum, by then a full-time Virginia resident, sought to chisel $67,000 in home schooling tuition reimbursements from the Penn Hills School District.

One problem: the home he schooled his kids in wasn’t even in Pennsylvania. It was in Leesburg, Virginia, near where he now lives in a $2 million mansion.

After that even Pennsylvania Republicans stopped defending him. He lost his last election by 18 percent, the largest losing margin for an incumbent Republican senator ever.

Still, Santorum acts like we Pennsylvanians have spent the last 20 years yukking it up with him at the Steeler tailgate parties.

Who does the guy think he is, John Heinz?

That’s the Republican hero previously mentioned. I was a local reporter in March 1991 when Senator Heinz was in town to cover a Gulf War memorial service.

I caught him outside and asked if he had time to answer some questions for the local paper.

“Shoot,” he said.

I shot until my inquisitive reportorial gun went click.

I asked him about the service, the war, George H.W. Bush’s re-election chances, and if he knew anything about the local county commissioner race (he did).

I asked about the Pirates prospects, turnpike fare increases, the new Clint Eastwood movie and if he’d ever seen The Stones play live (he had).

I remember it as one of the most engaging and wide-ranging conversations I’ve ever had. It lasted about 30 minutes, a one-on-one lifetime with a U.S. Senator.

Less than a month later, he was dead. A mid-air collision over a Pennsylvania school yard killed Heinz and seven others, including two first grade girls playing on the ground.

His death changed the arc of Pennsylvania Republican politics for the next 20 years. Had he not died, he’d still be our senator or maybe president.

Who knows?

Maybe it would have prevented the ascendency of someone as vile and divisive as Rick Santorum, a man who doesn’t believe in recreational sex, yet is still finding new ways to screw with millions of unsuspecting strangers.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mime, all mime

I told a friend that careful mimes can be safe, but never sound, and he accused me of thinking inside the box.

So now I’m probably doomed to spend the rest of the day thinking about mimes.

I sense it won’t be beneficial to the bottom line.

Back when I was teaching creative non-fiction, it was a dream of mine to test my students by having them spend an hour interviewing a mime. The really inventive students, I’m sure, would have come up with some very moving profiles.

I’ve never understood mimes nor the reflexive hatreds they inspire.

First of all, who aspires to a craft that offers virtually no pay and leads to widespread public derision?

I mean besides bloggers.

How come so many people love playing things like Charades, but hate mimes?

Our 11-year-old is going through a mime phase. She does the box thing and it’s hilarious. But I try not to laugh too hard because I don’t want to encourage any ambitions that she aspire to become a professional mime.

Of course, if she ever does express such a sentiment, I know exactly what I’ll do: I’ll convey the difficulty of the endeavor by pretending I’m walking against a really strong wind. If that fails, I’ll dramatically fold my hands together and place them pillow-like beside my temple and feign uncontrollable weeping.

We can all name thousands of rock bands, but there’s only one name when it comes to miming and that’s Marcel Marceau (1923-2007).

I never knew this before but March 18 is Marcel Marceau Day in New York City, declared thus in 1999. I will as soon as this is complete pitch that as a story idea, one I’m sure is doomed for rejection.

Yet it’s so offbeat it must be pursued. Maybe they’ll encourage all the traffic cops wear white face.

Marceau was apparently a great man. In April 2001, the University of Michigan awarded the Frenchman its Wallenberg Medal in recognition of his World War II heroics aiding Jews and other refugees fighting the Nazis.

The visual of the world’s most famous mime saving refugees and fighting Nazis sounds like a plot straight out of “Hogan’s Heroes.”

I was also surprised to learn he’s an author. He contributed several well-received forewords to respected art books. Knowing what I know about the publishing industry I can only bet compensation was offered on the stipulation the world’s most famous silent performer agreed to provide the audio versions.

Many of you may remember him for his most speaking famous role, playing himself in the hilarious 1976 Mel Brooks flick, “Silent Movie.”

Marceau utters the only word in the entire film so I guess it could be considered a French film. In it Brooks through sub-titles asks, please, Marcel, would you be in our silent movie?

Marceau, in the only spoken word in the otherwise silent movie, says, “No!”

In terms of ironic brilliance, it nearly equals the idea of a coyote eating a vegetarian.

Well, that’s it.

I’ve exhausted all I know about the subject of mimes. I now have nothing left to say.

And that’s as good a way as any to end a blog on mimes.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The night Ozzy didn't pee on The Alamo

Today’s an important day in non-history: It was 30 years ago this evening when Ozzy Osbourne didn’t urinate on the Alamo. This may seem contrived. I mean you’d think just about everyday of the year could be remembered as someone not peeing on the Texas shrine. It’s just not something you do.
But it’s different with Ozzy. Part of his legend is that on Feb. 19, 1982, he is supposed to have urinated on the walls of the Alamo after a nearby concert.
It just didn’t happen.
I was looking through old stories to pitch and too late found this one, “Story of Ozzy at The Alamo is mostly all wet.” It ran in the Boston Herald in 2004. Had I seen it sooner, I think I could have found a magazine that would have seized on this anniversary. Alas, I’m out of luck.
But that doesn’t mean you have to be. Here, check it out. It’ll give you some smarty pants satisfaction next time anyone mentions Ozzy or brings up the infamous incident.
Thus, another blow struck on behalf of truth!

Officials at The Alamo are more than happy to discuss the legends and legacies that still seem to reverberate off the shrine's scarred walls like so many spent bullets. But there is one off-the-wall legend that they wish would just dry up and blow away.
Yep, the name Ozzy Osbourne is still getting people in Texas all, well, P.O.d.

"Oh, please, we'd rather not talk about that," says Laura Garcia, executive secretary at The Alamo who patiently and pleasantly fends off questions from writers and producers from around the world. "We just got a call from a documentary group that's filming a series about outrageous stunts by rock stars. They wanted to come down here and film and interview. We just told them, no thanks."

But thanks to MTV's hit series, "The Osbournes," there are days the name Ozzy Osbourne gets mentioned at The Alamo more times than Davy Crockett, and that just really, er, stinks!

"Oh, I get asked about it three or four times a day," says one guide. "More when a school group visits."
The kids, and many adults ask about it in a "Pssst! Hey, buddy, can you show me where Ozzy, you know . . ." sort of way

Well, the truth is that in this land of legends, no guide within or without the walls of The Alamo can show anybody exactly where Ozzy Osbourne drunkenly heeded nature's call on February 19, 1982, after a performance at the San Antonio Convention Center Arena. You know why?
Because it never happened.

I know, I know. Right now legions of devoted Ozzy fans are spitting out their cereal saying, "I can't *&#@! believe it!"

But it's true. Ozzy Osbourne never urinated on the walls of The Alamo. Had he, he may not have lived to become America's most unlikely father figure. The officials at the Alamo don't want to talk about it, but their friendly guides will.

"It's just not true," says one guide, who requested his name not be used for publication. "If he had, the police wouldn't have arrested him. They would have beaten him to within an inch of his life."
The Alamo, or Mission San Antonio de Valero, to Texans is understandably sacred ground. It is here that 189 Texans gave their lives rather than surrender to Mexican General Santa Anna and his army. The more than 2.5 million annual visitors understand this. The people who stroll through its buildings and beautifully landscaped grounds in the heart of San Antonio speak in reverential tones as they learn of the heroism of men like Crockett, William B. Travis and Jim Bowie and why the phrase "Remember the Alamo!" is still relevant 166 years after the last man died at his post that warm spring day. Its limestone walls were consecrated with the blood of patriots whose sacrifice is innately understood by schoolchildren, adults and even drunken English rock stars.

"What happened was he was with a bunch of band members after the show," says the guide. "They were dawdling and he had to go. When he couldn't get them to leave he just unzipped his trousers and went right where he was standing."

Where he was standing happened to be across the street from The Alamo at the stately, 60-foot-high Cenotaph. Erected in 1939 by the Texas Centennial Commission, the name Cenotaph means a monument erected in honor of a dead person whose remains lie elsewhere. He was arrested and charged with public intoxication. The next morning he felt something besides hung over.
He felt regret.

"Everyone believes he urinated on the walls of the Alamo and just went on his merry way. That's just not true. In fact, he felt terrible about it."

Just how terrible was reported in the Sept. 10, 1992, editions of The San Antonio Express-News under a headline that reads, "Ozzy thanks city for having him back." The article reads, "It's official: British heavy metal singer Ozzy Osbourne is donating $10,000 to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas -- caretakers of the Alamo, the Texas shrine that Osbourne is accused of defiling 10 years ago."

The article notes the arrest and the incident on the sidewalk near the Cenotaph and includes this statement from Ozzy: "We all have done things in our lives that we regret. I am deeply honored that the people of San Antonio have found it in their hearts to have me back. I hope that this donation will show that I have grown up."

Happily, it won't cost the rest of us that much to visit San Antonio. Its magnificent Riverwalk is one of America's great urban treats anywhere in America. It's crowded with fabulous restaurants like Boudro's and The Texas Land & Cattle Steakhouse, which, like many of the city's eateries, serves meals on barges that cruise up and down the festive 13-mile stretch of the Paseo del Rio.

The May 1999 opening of a top new resort provides fresh reasoning for Osbourne's uncharacteristic groveling. The Westin La Cantera Resort's been named one of the top 50 golf resorts in the nation by Conde Nast Traveler. Each September, La Canterra's 18-hole Jay Morrish/Tom Weiskopf course hosts is the site of the PGA Tour's Valero Texas Open, won this year by Loren Roberts. An even better test is the spectacular new Arnold Palmer design. It's challenging enough that some of the cliffhanger holes might have Baptist ministers sounding like raunchy rock stars.

Either way, the history and the present San Antonio have enough to ensure that every visitor leaves pleased, not, er, upset.

Related . . .

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Welcome Springsteen fans!

The travel page at today features my story about the new Bruce Springsteen exhibit at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The editors there were kind enough to include a link to this 2009 blog post about my album-by-album career overview of Springsteen’s career.

So there’s a whole bunch of tasteful strangers poking around here today. I ask some of you regulars to please move to the centers of each row and be on your best behavior.

Welcome and allow me to introduce the blog.

First of all this blog has nothing to do with the Amish, a kind and gentle sect known for industry, thrift and hardwork.

This blog is none of those things.

What is it?

Well, it strives to be unpredictable. In the past two weeks confused readers have found using search terms that included, “do amish can bacon,” “amish boobs,” “hammock journalist,” and “ich bin ein horny.”

It strives to be visionary. This blog was the first to argue it would enhance the appeal of thoroughbred racing if one of the marquee Triple Crown events was run with 350-pound jockeys: that world hunger will end when scientists learn to farm dinosaurs; and that tedious NFL holding penalties could be eliminated if teams were forced to use armless lineman.

It strives to be cheerful. Only here will you be invited to celebrate things like the birthday of Maj. Frank Burns, the life of America’s greatest eunuch; and the time the alien P’lod played a pivotal role in a presidential election.

But what am I doing taking up all your time when the blog can speak for itself.

There’s only one rule: if you have to sneeze please do so into your inner elbow. It helps reduce the spread of germs.

The only exception being those of you who are heading to a barn square dance tonight. You can let it fly but please try to be careful.

And if you came here hoping for more Springsteen, here’s what the blog had to say on the passing of Clarence Clemmons. RIP, Big Man.

Thanks for the visit. Hope to see you again!

July 19, 2011

The last time I saw Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band I noticed Clarence Clemons had gold fingernails.

I remember thinking it wasn’t gold paint.

I thought it was actual gold and that’s just the way he grew them. He was just that cool.

You can check out a picture and decide for yourself here in my inconsequential blog review of the Boss’s May 19, 2009, Pittsburgh concert.

It’ll take the death of Stone to so fundamentally change one of the great remaining bands the way the death of Clemons changes Bruce and the band.

The artistic generosity of Springsteen meant Clemons would often steal the song and always steal the show.

“When the change was made up town and the Big Man joined the band

“From the coastline to the city all the little pretties raise their hands”

His vocal baritone cameos on “Fire,” “10th Avenue Freeze Out,” and the on-stage mugging between Clemons and Springsteen always sent fans into frenzies.

Clemons liberated the saxophone from the high school band room and made it as eloquent a rock ‘n’ roll instrument as the sainted guitar.

I argue he did as much for race relations as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or any of the pretenders to Martin Luther King Jr.’s throne.

That’s him on the black and white cover of maybe the greatest rock album of all time, “Born to Run,” from 1975.

The picture shows the greatest American rock ‘n’ roll star since Elvis draped across the back of a big black man in such an affectionate interracial embrace it seemed to demolish multiple taboos.

This brother was a brother.

It’s fitting, too, because the album is as much his as it is Bruce’s. His saxophone makes indelible contributions on the monumental title cut, “Thunder Road,” “10th Avenue Freezeout,” “Night,” and most memorably on “Jungleland.”

Even as Bruce began writing studio songs away from Clemons, the Clemons solos remained the highlights of concerts.

I listened to all 318 Springsteen songs in chronological order over 23.5 hours to write a career retrospective of one of America’s most important artists.

I’m still struck by the 18-year span from 1986-2002 when Bruce Springsteen chose to not record with one of the greatest bands in American history.

It’s still stunning. He did a bunch of mostly forgettable solo and often self-indulgent treacle while the scattered band did solo projects that never broke the pop culture surface.

I remember Clemons saying watching Bruce make music with other musicians was like watching your wife sleeping with other men.

And, you know, it felt like that to the rest of us, too. Each new release of forgettable material was like attending a divorce proceeding in family court where our custody was being decided.

What the hell was he thinking?

It took the tragedy of 9/11 for him to reunite the band for the sake of our national psyche.

That’s when even he understood. This isn’t just a band.

These are our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles. They raised us. They’re in all our scrapbooks.

There are times when I -- and I’m not ashamed of this -- actually look forward to the deaths of our legends, to the days when a well-aged Paul McCartney, Elton John or Mick Jagger struts off to rock ‘n’ roll heaven.

There will be parties at their passings.

Not out of disdain, certainly. It’s just that they’ve given us so much and I truly love them and I’m looking forward to putting their entire playlist on random and getting good and gassed listening to the songs that have meant so much to me.

It’s a kind of mourning we can all enjoy.

The passing of Clarence Clemons doesn’t feel at all like something to celebrate.

This was a death in the family.