Saturday, April 29, 2017

Tweets of the Month (again)!

My friend Bryan Henry took this and a bunch of other snazzies at the Tin Lizzy nearly two years ago. I remain so pleased with them I hope I never age lest my pictures begin to appear fraudulent. Thanks for, reading, sharing, commenting and caring. You can find tweets at 8Days2Amish

• Reading newspapers online is to actual reading what phone sex is to lovemaking. Gone is the soul, the serendipity the chance to get hands good & dirty

• I’m one of those guys who says he hates change, but still stoops in traffic for pennies and nickels.

• Some say I may be one of those writers who doesn't become success 'til dead. Good/bad news is I'm so stressed could happen Tuesday.

• Given the current trajectory of social media trends, in four years everyone will know everyone and no one will get along with anyone.

• Our world will be a better place when all those scheming to find the means to an end instead work on finding an end to the means.

• I’m in debt, prospects bleak, savings long gone ... I tell ya, when it comes to nothing, I got it all!

• I’m going to spend the rest of the day concocting a story about  an unscrupulous masseuse who was arrested for armed rubbery.

• Does heaven have Casual Fridays and if they do, pray tell, what do they wear?

• I wonder how long it'll be before the number of earthlings living in space outnumber the number of earthlings living on earth.

• Beer drinkers who believe their bladders are half empty should be called pissimists.

• The name Ivanka Trump sounds like a punchline to one of the prank calls Bart makes to Moe on "The Simpsons.”

• Does it make me practical or cheap when I take wife, daughters, 16 & 10, to Olive Garden and ask the waitress for separate checks?

• Imagine how much better USA would be if everyone interested in who's up/down in West Wing cared as much about their local school board.

• News that airline service "going down hill" feels like prophesy. I worry to save money, planes will soon travel on the ground.

• Given their cost-cutting insistence on ridding flights of all frills, planes will soon be plains. 

• It’d be charming news if archeologists were to reveal today they found a cave drawing emblazoned with the motto, "Cave Sweet Cave.”

• So Bob Dylan releases a bunch of Sinatra covers and it's "tribute." I release "Grapes of Wrath" under my name and it's "plagiarism." #UNFAIR

• On this day in 1865, Lincoln was shot, in 1912, Titanic hit iceberg, and in 1996 Greg Norman blew a 6-stroke lead to lose Masters.

• Reports say $16 mil bomb killed 36 ISIS. If there are 200,000 ISIS in world, we'll need just 5,000 more and $80 billion.

• Which is the greater cultural irony: Roger Daltry still singing, "Hope I die before I get old," or Madonna still singing, "Like a Virgin.”

• Do the females who make Elmer's Glue consider themselves Bond girls or would that make them stuck up?

• I used to believe politics was a pendulum that swung back and forth. Now, I realize it's a ping pong ball getting the shit relentlessly smashed out of it.

• Technology is the willful and agreed-upon demolition of charm and all that was once beloved as quaint.

• I wonder if any of the men from the Lewis & Clark expedition ever complained about things like lactose intolerance or peanut allergies.

• Let the early bird have the worm. Sleep in and take the Pop Tart.

• My wife says it's time for a new floor. I didn't think we'd need a new floor until one of us begins falling through holes in the old floor.

• Smart phones are great but until smart phones have coin return slots where you can find surprise quarters they simply won't measure up.

• Climate change, lousy air quality, unsightly rubbish piles ... if Earth were an apartment we'd be at risk of losing our deposit.

• Death of Erin Moran is also the death of my dream of seeing her host a cable antiquing show: "Joanie Loves Tchotchke!”

• Many viewers cranky and gloomy now that Bill O'Reilly is no longer around to make them feeling cranky and gloomy.

• Used to feel bad I didn't know more about the faiths of my friends. That was before I realized how little I know about my own faith.

• Hard to wrap my brain around it, but just heard a DJ describe the Rolling Stones as a “popular ‘60s boy band.”

• I enjoy calling angry acquaintances assholes and then watching them react as I advise they should be more open to constructive criticism.

• No good pun goes unpunished.

• The proliferation of the 10 concert quiz has me longing for the days of ice bucket challenge and all the hilarious fails that ensued.

• What do you foresee being the issue that will one day cause the robots to go on quality-of-life work stoppage? I imagine it'll be anger over having to miss the happy hour. That's what did it for me.

• Because tiny Crabtree, Pa., pop 320, is home to not one, but two GREAT Italian restaurants (Rizzo's & Carbones) I propose we rename Crabtree Spaghettysburg.

• Fearful over the repercussions Ann Coulter is canceling her May 2 speech in Berkeley. Praying she doesn't decide to come to Tin Lizzy.

• Leave it to Kinks wit Ray Davies to perfectly sum up state of music: "Rock's not dead. It's just gone to the Catskills.”

• Mother’s Day in just 17 days! Am I required to take the Mother Of All Bombs to brunch or will flowers suffice? 

• Roger Goodell spent the night excessively celebrating with men whom he'll in six months be fining for excessively celebrating.

• Most know of the demise of the dodo bird, but few recall it was preceded by another tragic extinction. I'm talking about the dododo bird.

• The last time I so simultaneously relied upon and resented something like Facebook was when I was 27 and was compelled to move back in with my folks.

• Some men dream of riches. Some of solvency. Me, I dream of a day when I’ve vanquished caring one way or the other.

•  I'm going to be famous! I just taught Snickers how to sing/bark "I Want You To Want Me!" Yes! I taught an old dog Cheap Trick!

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Drummers & getting our arms around rock economy

I was in an otherwise good mood talking with a drummer friend when another drummer sat right beside him and ruined the whole thing.

I so can’t stand the idea of bands with two drummers in them I object to bars with two drummers, too.

Who knew Latrobe had so many drinking drummers?

The one guy’s an old buddy of mine and keeps the beat in a popular local cover band. He was very reverential of the newcomer in the way only one drummer can be to another.

I respect anyone with musical talent so I’ll make no drummer jokes here.

I’ll instead repeat just three:

• What do you call a drummer after his girlfriend breaks up with him? Homeless.

• How can you tell if your stage is level? There are equal amounts of drool coming out of both sides of the drummer’s mouth.

• What’s the difference between a drummer and a savings bond? The savings bond will eventually mature and earn money.

I asked them who is the greatest drummer. Both said John Bonham of Led Zeppelin.

I asked them if a $100 drum machine for sale at Best Buy could without missing a beat replace their hero. Both became sad.

Because I was feeling oddly antagonistic, I pointed out — and this is true — that in ’75 when Zeppelin was at the height of their popularity, Playboy readers said the greatest drummer wasn’t John Bonham, but was Karen Carpenter.

If they’d have had their drum sticks with them they would have likely beaten me to death with an accelerating tempo.

I told them it makes me angry when bands like the Grateful Dead have two drummers. It’s such an unnecessary duplication. So much extra equipment. Did the Dead hate their roadies?

They said each Dead drummer made vital contributions. One keeps the beat, the other the melodic fills. Blah, blah, blah.

Of course drummers are going to argue bands need multiple drummers, but there are reasons why they ridicule men who wear belts and suspenders.

“Well,” they said practically in syncopation, “who do you think is the greatest drummer?

Rick Allen, I said. 


He’s the drummer for Def Leppard, the 80s hit powerhouse better known for rocking than proper spelling. I say this because Allen lost his left arm in a 1984 auto wreck. Yet he overcame the disability and continued to perform.

I always wondered if after the loss of his arm his bandmates tried to impose a pay cut.

I like a little economy in my rock.

That’s why I’ll never forget a performance in a Palm Beach restaurant in about 1994. I was there spending a couple of weeks working at the home offices of the National Enquirer. They’d bring stringers like me into meet editors and schmooze.

After work, we’d all meet at some bar and it was always great fun. But on this night I was all alone. The next day they apologized and said they had to attend to an important breaking national news story I no longer recall. Maybe Ricki Lake went off her diet.

But in the bar was a true one-man band. He sat at a piano, had a banjo, a rack of tooter horns arrayed before his face, cymbals strapped between his knees, kazoo -- the works. He made this tremendous racket that sounded like a drunken marching band tumbling down a long flight steps. And he was singing at the top of his lungs like he wanted people in Orlando to hear him.

He’d play Beatles, Elton John — I remember a particularly raucous version of ELO’s “Can’t Get it Out of My Head.”

In between songs he’d talk to me, the only one in the bar. I told him how much I appreciated his unusually diverse skills. For some strange reason, he invited me to sit next to him on the piano bench.

For some strange reason, I accepted! He even gave me some headphones so I wouldn’t miss a note.

What was funny was I remember the angry owner coming by and repeatedly telling him to turn it down, that it was bothering his dining room customers. And there I was sitting right next to him with it being amplified right in my ears.

But it’s a performance I’ll never forget. He played like seven instruments, sometimes all at once, a true virtuoso.

I think I tipped him $5.

I told my drummer friends that story and how limb-for-limb he was one of the greatest performers I’ve ever seen. They called me an idiot.

Told me to beat it.

What do you expect from a couple of drummers?

Related …

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Forever trying to prove my cool through my music

I had to correct a friend who was introducing me to his buddies last week when we were having drinks in Flappers, the beguiling second floor bar here in the Tin Lizzy.

“Chris works here up on the third floor,” he said.

Not true. I don’t work on the third floor.

I sit there. 

I sometimes type, which no one who really works would consider real work. And I often play cornhole by myself in the cornhole room on the other side of the building from where I sit and sometimes type.

And if you wonder how a man possessing the normal joint configuration can cornhole all by himself you’re still laboring under an 8th grade definition of cornholing.

Want to know what I spend a lot of time doing?

Trying to appear cool.

See, unlike at my past office, there’s a steady stream of visitors up here on the third floor and I’ve opted for an open-door policy. So anyone who hikes three flights of stairs for whatever reason is bound to get a howdy and a smile.

Appearance-wise, this involves mostly always wearing pants. It wouldn’t be cool for anyone to walk in here and see me typing in my underwear. In fact, anything I’d do to “appear” cool — style my hair, fashionable shirt — would diminish my working class cool.

So it’s all about the music.

I think one of the reasons the 10 concert challenge is such a micro-sensation is we’re all eager to prove to ourselves and one another we have good taste in music. It is essential to our self-image.

I’m right there. Really, for going on nearly two decades now my sole claim to cool has been the music blasting out of my speakers.

This surprised a visitor yesterday. Besides my office, storage and the cornhole rec room, there’s also a work shop. He was tinkering around in there for about an hour.

He’s one of my political antagonists. We had bitter shouting matches over the election. So he for months looked at me and thought Hillary-lovin’, tree-huggin’, gay-marriage approvin’, Prius-drivin’, sanctuary city-supportin’, PBS-watchin’ … jackass.

It was as offensive as it was inaccurate. 

I can’t afford a Prius.

“Man,” he said, “I am loving the tunes!”

It was an alt-country playlist with Lucinda Williams, Joe Ely, Drive-by Truckers, Robert Earl Keen, Some Waylon.

“Who knew a guy like you listened to cool music?”

I told him I loved both my country and my nation. I asked him what kind of music he thought a guy like me listened to.

“Captain & Tennille.”

I was blessed to live among and with great Nashville songwriters when I lived in Music City from ’85-’88. Their ear for great turns of phrase and compelling storytelling left an indelible impact on me, my writing and, of course, on my musical tastes.

It’s been since then I’ve maintained that listening to vintage country music is like sitting in a rocking chair and reading the Bible while someone stands behind you and plays the fiddle.

I was very pleased about a month ago when that old Nashville roommate, Lance Cowan, said unsolicited some very kind things about my blog, and posted it for all his 4,817 friends to read. Lance is a very friendly guy.

It was a blast of encouraging cheer straight out of the blue. I guess he forgot about all those towels I stole from him when I moved out.

His note made me wish I could jump in my car and head to Nashville and immerse myself in really good old music with a really good old friend.

That would be real cool.

Instead I remain here mostly sitting and sometimes typing and forever trying to project cool.

It’s not easy.

You just never know when someone might come dashing up the steps at the precise moment “Muskrat Love” cycles up on the playlist.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Vote Rostraver for Hockeyville! Me & Flyer great Hextall would want you to

I disappointed a lot of readers by not returning from last month’s Philadelphia visit with even one story about how Philly was full of Pitttsburgh-hating jerks.

Sorry, but everyone I met was perfectly sweet so I defend Philly.

Maybe it’s because I once defended arguably one of the biggest Philly jerks of all time.

Yes, at one time I defended Ron Hextall.

And he had my back! 

I played defense on a peewee hockey on a team with Hextall, who went on to play goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers and was described by none other than Wayne Gretzky as “the best goalie I’d ever faced.”

I mention this now because today is the final day to vote for Rostraver Gardens to win $150,000 from Kraft Hockeyville as the best hockey venue in America. Rostraver and Bloomington (Minn.) Ice Garden are the remaining finalists culled from 1,300 entrants.

I just signed up and voted Rostraver 50 times, which is the limit and after I’m done with this I’ll try and think of a way to submit another 5,000 votes.

Rostraver Gardens means a lot to me and most every other kid who grew up playing hockey in Pittsburgh. It’s where I learned hockey fundamentals, the values of teamwork, leadership and persistence.

It’s where Hextall screamed at me so cruelly I nearly crapped my hockey pants.

I was 10.

He was 8.

I’ve known Marines who were less profane.

Hextall was the son of former Pittsburgh Penguin Bryan Hextall and the grandson of NHL Hall of Famer Bryan Hextall Sr. He had a very proud pedigree.

I was the son of a South Hills optician and was proud when I learned to tie my own skates.

In those pre-Mario Lemieux days, hockey wasn’t huge in Pittsburgh. Almost every kid who played — and every son of every Pen — played in the leagues run out of Rostraver. I played with the sons of notable Pens Vic Hatfield, Marc Boileau, Syl Apps and Dave Burrows. They were all just great, regular kids.

Hextall was a monster.

In my life of people yelling at me for being stupid, lazy and wrong, I’ve never had anyone yell at me like Hextall did.

“Rodell, you’re &%$#! screening me! I can’t *#$%&* see! Hit somebody you stupid *&%$#@ pussy! &%*#!%& *%$#@! *&%$!”

At 10, I only understood one out of every four words he was screaming, but I instinctively knew he was, let’s say, displeased with my performance.

And it was only our first practice.

I don’t remember crying, but I probably felt like crying. Crying and quitting.

In the end, I did neither. Instead, I went to work.

I’m not saying I became a competent hockey player because he screamed at me — I wouldn’t want my wife to draw any conclusions from the fable — but showing Hextall I was good was a serious motivation.

I’ll never forget the game about half way through the season when I was on fire. I made two key break-out passes that led to goals, scored on a rebound and broke up two 3-on-1 breakaways in the crucial 3rd period. We beat the Kiddie Kings 3-2.

Later in the din of our victorious locker room, Hextall yelled out, “Rodell!” I looked over at him.

All he did was nod. One time.

But I felt utterly euphoric. The son of Pittsburgh Penguin approved of my play. I felt welcomed. I felt like a real man.

Two years before my first pube!

I wouldn’t say we became friends. Heck, I’m not sure a kid that angry ever had a friend in his entire life. He went onto a great career, but was considered one of the meanest players ever.

And that’s in goon-filled hockey!

But he did became respectful of my play. I love recalling those stories and recollecting all my time at Rostraver. It’s a very special place and hope you’ll vote for it at Kraft Hockeyville.

I ask you nicely.

Don’t make me go all Hextall on you.

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