Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Climbing onward

Breathing out after dealing with a surprise billing by my son's day camp. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what the bill was for, since we had paid in full. After talking to the big cheese of billing, I was reassured we would not be charged. Again, for what, I'm still trying to figure out.

I also bought something else I'd never bought before. A couple of years ago it was a mailbox.

This year it's a step ladder.

My wife was cleaning outside and could not reach the top of the windows, she may be tall, but she's not that tall.

Hit a Mexican grocery store on the way home, got some ideas for a future What I'm Drinking episode.

In very exciting news, Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace is opening a second location in Westgate!

As Yogi Berra said, "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded." Which is how I feel, a little, about the first Dirty Franks location. It's always packed. I'm not whining, and admire their success. Damn those crowds though! It's wonderful that they're expanding to my side of town, where people (including myself) are starving for decent businesses to open. That The Columbus Food League would take a chance on the west side is a huge step to attracting more diverse retail and dining options.

Is a coffee shop next?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Your mother calls us misfits it doesn't bother you one bit

Memoirs by rock musicians are usually very hit or miss. Read a few recently and I've found that while the books can be well written, the authors rarely seem to be enjoying what they're doing or they're a whining jerk or so indifferent and passive you wonder why they even picked up an instrument in the first place, let alone become a musician.

A few years back, Jacob Slichter did a fine job depicting what it was like to get rock success then lose it quickly.

This year Joe Oestreich has captured the magic of never acquiring fame in Hitless Wonder.

Oestreich is the bassist and co-vocalist of the Columbus band Watershed. The band has been together for over 25 years, had a signing to a major record label in the 1990's but never quite caught the level of success far lesser bands with far lesser talent did achieve.

They're still together, still working hard and rocking, even when the rewards are diminishing and backs are losing their strength to carry sound equipment.

In the midst of a failing marriage and torn between music and teaching as a career, Oestreich and the band play on, to five people in a club, to several hundred in their hometown. It's a bittersweet and well told story. You feel the horrors of royalty distribution by the major label and the joy of hearing a song of yours played to over a hundred thousand at your college football stadium before a game.

Hitless Wonder is one of the better rock books out there and it's great to see Oestreich finally get some success out of his band, even if he has to revisit a lot of 'what ifs' in the process. It's a compelling story that has you cheering for the friendship of the band members, which in the end is all that matters. I loved this book.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Top of the page, Ma

Wednesday's poem about the wedding of Kim Jong Un has been posted on the website New Verse News here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Right Poem, Wrong time? Wrong poem, right time?

Fascinating evening of poetry and slam at Writers’ Block last night, Erik the Viking seems to be becoming a regular and should get his card soon.

Seven poets competed in the slam. A couple needed to get their second slam in to be eligible to compete in the Grand Slam, others were competing for practice, others for shits and giggles.

I did not need to compete for points, had a rough day and needed to let off some steam. That’s why I took part. Really had no idea what I was going to read. The phone going off during open mic was a perfect set up for me to read my I’ll Serve You if You’re Phone Goes Off While I’m Reading a Poem, poem. Since I drew the one, and accepted my fate, I figured I’d burn it, get an entertaining slam going.

It went over well enough, but at the end of round one I was in seventh place.

In round two poets were getting serious. Vernell and Hanif were bringing it. Getting their chops developed before they headed to Nats. A guy passing through town named Ryan scored huge in round one with a witty poem that reminded me of Jonathan Walters’ computer love poem I heard in Berkeley three years ago. He tried the same thing in round two, but while punning off of car names he lost the poem. The awkward silence of a poet who forgot how the poem went was in the room at Kafe Kerouac. Eventually he picked up his own thread but drew a large time penalty.

Bryant did well in his first slam, even though he had to profess his love for Justin Bieber.

I was the last poet in the slam and was clueless what to do, so I found one I’ve never slammed with before and had only read one time in the four years since I wrote it. Sommelier of Justice is very foul. A lot of four letter words. Smug and angry, but the energy from all the cussing seemed to work in the room last night. You never know what kind of response you’re going to get and last night stuff clicked together. It took me from seventh into fourth place which was quite the surprise.

So the Grand Slam is going to have six poets: Ethan Rivera, Gina Blaurock, Vernell Bristow, Alexis Mitchell, Aaron Alsop and I. Aaron came in third last night, picked up a point and will be competing in his first Grand Slam. I’m excited as Hell for him and am really, really looking forward to taking part in this slam, which takes place on August 29th at Kafe Kerouac. It’s going to be a very intense night of poetry. Someone’s going to Fayetteville, Arkansas to compete at IWPS at the end of that evening.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The registry of Kim Jong Un and his new wife Comrade Ri Sol-ju.

One nuclear weapon
Two matching Jeremy Lin Houston Rockets jerseys
Three bottles of that plum liquor I had a couple of weeks ago
Four free downloads of the bride’s song, “Excellent Horse-Like Lady”
Five Olympic women’s soccer players to replace the ones who tested positive for deer glands
Six party talks that proves effective
Seven Portuguese world cup soccer goals to be removed retroactively
Eight defectors to come back from the South to the Fatherland
Nine more years for the Dear Leader to spend in Switzerland
Ten nuclear weapons.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A long post, mostly sports related

You may remember that we saw the Vice President's limo go by my workplace last week. Turns out, after his speech there were still people outside the building, waving and cheering as his motorcade went down the road. Biden stopped the limo, unexpectedly as the rest of the detail traveled on, got out and shook a bunch of hands.

The Vice President attached himself to one my co-workers, would not let go of her hand as he talked to people, asked for their names. He suggested they take a group shot on the stairs, which produced a wonderful photo that I wish I could post here, but it's not mine to post.

I left about an hour earlier so I do not feel bad about missing him. If it was ten minutes though, I'd be kicking myself for a missed opportunity. It was a great experience for librarians!

The NC$$ issued what it thinks is a severe and unprecedented penalty on Penn State University. In addition to scholarship reductions and losing post season opportunities for four years, the University was also fined sixty million dollars for covering up Jerry Sandusky's being a child rapist.

The one thing the NC$$ did that shocked me was erasing the wins of the team going back to 1998, when the cover up for Sandusky's crimes of child rape began. This wiped out coach Joe Paterno's coaching wins record, and most of his legacy at Penn State. A clear message was sent with this punishment.

A lot of people were expecting the 'death penalty', the team being shut down. However, as the NC$$ explains in its 'rules', the death penalty only goes to teams that deliberately cheated to gain advantage on the field. This is a tragic and unique case. I think the penalties issued are fair, justly harsh. In some ways, even worse than the death penalty, the program is going to be weak for many years. I am surprised that they did not issue a ban on playing, or that the team was not allowed to appear on television. The football culture of the university is going to be difficult to change. I do not think the administration really gets it, not in the theater they used in tearing down Paterno's statue early Sunday morning. Change has to start at the top, where the trouble and cover ups for child rape lie.

Going back to the sixty million dollars though. That is a lot of money. it's supposed to go toward helping sexual abuse survivors. I do hope this is the case, and that helping and healing victims comes from this tragic series of events. That money could go a long way to help.

The horrors of the Colorado theater shooting still resonate. It's still easier to buy weapons online that liquor in this country. Peace to the victims and their families. Strength to all the victims. I do not have any more words for this.

The Blue Jackets finally traded the franchise today, shipping Rick Nash to the Rangers. An expected move. I think Howson got the best deal he could, now and at the trade deadline it would have been about the same. Dubinsky is a solid player. Anisimov is a young scoring center with some upside. Erixson is a young defenseman with a lot of potential. They're very deep and competitive at the blue line. Now they have to address the goaltending situation and hope a bunch of players (especially you, Derek Brassard!) start to establish themselves and put the puck in the net. The double teaming of Nash has stopped. It's time for the potential to get to work.

The Blue Jackets also got a number one draft pick, which gives them three for the next draft.

A lot of people do not think Howson got enough for Nash. I do not think any package would have been enough for a lot of people. I wish Nash well. He had it very easy in Columbus for the ten years he was here. Expectations and pressure will be a lot higher in New York. We'll find out if he's capable of handling them.

News comes that Everton's Tim Cahill has been sold to the New York Red Bulls of the MLS. At his best, Cahill was one of the most passionate players on the pitch. An asset to the club. The Aussie often scored with his head then beat the crap out of the corner flag after doing so. I'll miss seeing him do that. In recent years though, I think his production dropped. Time to move on. He'll do well in America.

Then I found out the yankees traded for Ichiro. If anything can rejuvenate one of the greatest singles hitters in the game, a move to a winning team will.

Meanwhile the Mets relief pitching stinks, Jason Bay is worse and the Crew would rather have a tower than a designated player.

Sports calm me, keep my blood going and give me a sad - sometimes all at once.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

They're Growing Up

A few weeks back I wrote about a couple of mourning doves who were hanging out in our backyard.

They're still here. Living in a pile of leaves and things.

I've seen them outside our bathroom window, on the roof of the backroom. They're rarely apart for long. I did not think their Mother was still feeding them, but my wife said she saw her doing so very recently.

I want to name them, but I'm sure once that attachment happens they'll be eaten by a cat, or disappear. My wife already calls them Harold and Maude, because one of them dies. So I'm calling them Sonny and Cher, because, you know.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Where can I get some Huntly F.C. Swag?

An interesting afternoon at work. Vice President Biden was in town and gave a speech at the union hall just across the street and down the road from my building. A couple of hours before he was scheduled to arrive, the police were out and getting set up to lock down the street.

As the time got near, protesters showed up, more police came and roadblocks were put out.

A few of my coworkers were outside, waiting to see the motorcade. How many time in your life do you get to see a political motorcade? I waited awhile. And waited. Then went back to my desk after hearing one of the police officers mention they were stopping for lunch and would be delayed. Naturally, after I waited a few minutes then went back to the exit, the motorcade showed up. I got this picture of the end of it.

He was trailed by what looked like every motorcycle police officer in the city. These guys took a break while Biden gave his speech.

This was right about the time I was scheduled to leave and pick up my son. The street was blocked though. So I got in touch with my son's mother and told her what the Vice President was doing. She understood and went to pick him up from day camp. Turns out, I got out just a little bit late because the police officer was cool about letting people leave or come in who needed to. He told me to hurry before he got word the VP was back on the move, I did so and everyone was safe.

For dinner tonight we went to a fancy downtown hotel for the Arts Festival Thank You dinner. It was a well done event with a lot good cheer and thanks. I introduced the director to my wife. He detected a Scottish accent and he was off about the town in Scotland that is named after his ancestors. Turns out, my wife's mother's family is from that area and worked at the post office of the town. There's a very good chance his relatives and my wife's relations had many business transactions and other typical village doings together. It's a very small world.

The director called up all the committee chairs to give a little speech after dinner. He asked me to come up. I did not expect that! Did not embarrass myself though. Said some heartfelt thank yous and handed the mic back to him.

I cleaned up during the raffle. Won a pair of tickets to a Columbus Crew game. After all the prizes were handed out we were asked to look at the bottom of our chairs. There was nothing under mine, but there was a sticker underneath the empty seat next to me. Ended up with a gift card to a Cameron Mitchell restaurant. Score!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

This one deserves exposure

I'm not overly familiar with his music. His new record, Rebirth, is as pistol hot as Cliff's drummer. He worked with Rancid's Tim Armstrong. Don't miss this.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The forbidden fruit

There are nights when you drink too much. There are night you drink things you're not supposed to.

Last night was an night I drank things I had never drank before, and most likely never will again, but not for reasons of sickness.

Our generous host first offered me some beer from his personal house keg. He was trying to get rid of his Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster Ale and I happily provided some assistance. At 9.2% alcohol, I wanted half a glass.

As the party continued later, our host brought out a bottle of liquor that he received from his brother-in-law, who was in the military in Korea I believe. This was a bottle of Plum Liquor, that was from North Korea. Yes, it was a totalitarian regime beverage. I'd never seen anything that came from North Korea, let alone had a chance to drink one of its products.

I have no idea what these words say. There was no English on the bottle at all, but no images of the Dear Leader either. People were afraid of this beverage. Can you blame them? Our host had some small, plastic shot glasses and was filling them about a quarter capacity. Of course I had to give this Kim Il Wine a try.

My friend suggested we start filming a live, remote, What I'm Drinking, which might have been an interesting idea. But it was not to be.

So. How was the North Korean Plum Liquor? To be honest, it exceeded expectations. It was not poison, yet there seemed to be some paint thinner notes with the turpentine. There was a good dose of plum in the mix, which was quite pleasant. The drink did not have much balance to it though. Have no idea on the alcohol percentage.

A bit later I walked into the kitchen. There was a bottle on the island.

"Is that a special Belgian?" I asked our host.

I looked closer. Holy crap, it was a bottle of Westvleteren.

In all of my years of drinking, I have never seen a bottle of this beer. Westvleteren is a Belgian Trappist Ale and is only sold, after following the rules, at the brewery. The monks do not like it when their beers are sold on the grey market after their purchase and try to control their output. Obviously, this does happen.

My host and I were talking about Belgian beer over Thanksgiving dinner, and Westvleteren was brought up. From what I understand the monks needed a quick cash infusion to repair the Abbey and they released special six packs in the U.S. to raise money. I never got to buy into this, let alone being able to afford it.

It was an honor and a treat to be able to try this beer. It is a massive 10.2% on the alcohol scale. Packed with malt, apple and candy sugar flavors. Westvleteren truly deserves its place on the wall of great beers of the world.

Is it worth the price though? Does it taste better because it is so hard to find? If I lived in Belgium, I'd make road trips. Try my luck with the phone. But going through ebay, or other means? Not when there are so many great beers available in my city.

Friday, July 13, 2012

27 years ago

I've probably posted this before, but it can't be denied. Queen's appearance at Live Aid is one of the greatest festival concert performances ever. The connection with the audience at Wembley is emotional and true. Freddie Mercury embraced them. and they back.

I can also present a valid argument for Otis Redding at Monterrey. It's a good argument to be able to have. Those are my top two, in no particular order.

Any others? I'm sure there are. I'm thinking of a few now. Something from Woodstock? Radiohead at Glastonbury?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Where the wrapper be

Last night was one of the best open mics at Writers’ Block in sometime. Really.

A virgin poet started out the night in amazing fashion by ripping through a Viking poem that had nothing to do with Erik the Viking, but everything to do with conference calls. Seriously, one of the best debut poems since The Chet.

Virgin two did a powerful piece about losing a friend to drugs.

Richard from Cincinnati did a love poem, with Jesus twist.

Rose Smith sizzled. Had keys thrown at her.

There was a Sean Barber sighting! And Sean relived the olden days that never happened by reading a poem accompanied by Scott Woods on piano.

Joe! Read a train poem that had nothing to do with the train derailing, but everything to do with life’s metaphors.

A third virgin, Meg, was quite sensual.

Karen read. Yes. Karen read a tale about the Grove City bull calf that reminded me of Noel Harrison’s Young Girl.

A Quad of virgins read on the stage. Alexis called it a four course meal. A young lady read a poem in front of her Aunt and Uncle. It was about Twix and all the things you could do with it, I think. I was waiting for mention of the crunchy middle.

There was also a slam that Gina won. Wal-i came in second and I showed. Great night all around.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Every morning you have to wake up and be you

It's rare when I'm late these days getting some reading done. Rarer still that I was up until 1:30AM reading because I cannot put the book down.

The positive buzz for this book has been earned. I vowed to stay up until midnight with it, but the roller coaster twists kept boosting my adrenaline. I had to know how the best work of fiction I've read this year ended.

On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne goes missing. There are signs of a struggle. After an investigation, Amy's husband, Nick becomes the main suspect. Did he make her disappear? Gillian Flynn spins together a riveting story of meanness, lies, stupidity and flat out craziness as we never quite know what is really happening during the course of the crime. Oh yes, crimes were committed, but by whom, and when? The end is a bit contrived, but honest. We never quite know our spouses, and if we knew what they were truly capable of, would be commit to them?

Quite the page turner, seek this out.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

From 2746 to 3055

There are only two independently operated single screen theaters left in Columbus. For a decade. I used to live a couple of blocks from Studio 35. Back then, it was a between first and second run movie house. Cheap tickets, interesting atmosphere. It was quite run down. The seats were hit or miss. Most rows had a few seats that could not be sat in by people of any weight.

A few years ago the theater was sold and the new owners added draft beer to the mix. Eventually they improved the screen and sound. Over the spring they went all in, closed the place for a few weeks and updated the interior, added a full bar with plenty of tap handles. They also added a digital projector and vastly improved the sound. Finally, the seats are new! And the bathrooms are palatial compared to the old ones.

We gave it a chance last night and went to see the reboot of Spiderman. Friendly but loose service. A number of beers were not available, but we found a beverage for our liking. The back rows of the theater are still taken up by a nifty combination of seats and tables because people are still ordering in pizzas from the place a few doors down. It's not the quietest of movie experiences in this city, it never has been.

We liked the film. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are a vast improvement over McGuire and Dunst. The acting was more than competent. I think Stone's going to be able to write her own ticket very soon. We've seen the plot before. We'll see it again. It's familiar, but not overly so.

We'll even go back to my old neighborhood more often. It's a pleasant, locally owned movie going experience.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The world ain't safe no more

You rarely see it coming. Last night I was winding down from a long, festive day, my wife was in bed when a Facebook status update mentioned that a person I knew in Fredonia died. He was only 51 years old. His death was very sudden, and even more unexpected. His family was driving on the Thruway when he stopped breathing. He leaves behind a wife and two teenage daughters.

He worked at one of the local bars, grew up in town. He always carried himself with a lot of fun and energy. On good nights, he'd play the bottles on the back bar, or do a flaming shot. There were a lot of good nights.

He was also a versatile and talented musician. From what I understood he was still involved in that, but was quite responsible for raising his daughters while he sold stuff on Ebay out of his basement.

I remember when he and his wife started dating in the late eighties. She was a student of my ex-wife's and she took a liking to her because she reminded her of her younger sister. Very bright, whip smart, very attractive. We'd go to the Fountain Grill to shoot pool and get drunk, which is what the late eighties in Fredonia was all about.

The two had a major challenge early in their relationship, followed by another. They were married in the early nineties. I lost track of them but through Facebook got back in touch. He and I talked about children, and things we lost in basement floods. After awhile, you drift apart if you're not real close. So I no longer followed him. There was no disrespect. Far from it.

If you want to know more, or help the family out during this horrible time. Click here.

Rest in peace, Doug.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Frying on the sidewalk

It hit 100 degrees in Columbus today. Vicious heat and climbing humidity makes it painful to be outside.

We were supposed to go to the Doo-Dah Parade, but the idea of being in a crowd in the heat and sun was not appealing to either of us. Went to the Jury Room for an early lunch then headed over to the Bicentennial Park fountain to see what was happening.

Quite a bit, the fountain was flexing its muscle. There were a few dozen people enjoying the fountain on a hot afternoon.

I ended up walking through it to cool off. It worked!

Columbus showed well in the heat. We even spotted a Blue Heron looking for lunch in the river as well as a Great Egret that flew off as I started to take its picture.

A train showed up as we crossed the Main Street Bridge.

My wife and I were separated for a few hundred feet, but we got back together.

Nearly melted on the way back to the car. Went to see Brave, which I liked to a point. It was gorgeous to look at, but the script lacked precision. A lot of the humor that was geared towards kids, and that was not very funny. Still, toward the end, there were a few kids in our row sobbing. Good film. I expect better from Pixar though.

After that we hung out at the place we were married and went to dinner at an extremely loud Grandview Cafe. It was 100 degrees on a Wednesday afternoon and the music was Saturday night at 11PM levels. Not impressed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

That old hag hates my ass

A couple of weeks ago, for my birthday, Scott Woods posted this on Facebook, saying I sent this link to him every Wednesday morning to get him pumped up for Writers' Block.

Warning, it's not safe for work or for the culturally sensitive.

I've never seen this film before. Until tonight anyway. Just for kicks I decided to keep a list of every group that was slurred in the film, and keep a running count.

Black - 5
Asians (so many, and hard to categorize!) - 34
Korean - 1
Jews - 2
Irish - 2
Italian - 5
Hillbilly - 3
Polish -4
Gay - 1
Mexican - 2
Women - 10
Catholics - 1
N-word - 1

I also had a number of ethnic groups waiting for a tally. The following did not get an insult thrown at them: Japanese, Native American, Indian, Muslim, Arabs.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Waiting for the 4th of July

It's a great thing to have functioning air conditioning in the car, especially during this heat wave we're having. Driving across the city in this heat to pick up my son every day is a chore sometimes, at least the car is getting decent gas mileage.

On Saturday I noticed there was be a ticking noise out of the engine when I accelerated. Not loud, yet, but a noise that would not quiet down over time. Luckily, I was able to get to the mechanic before they closed today.

I've written many kind words about Mad Hatter Muffler here. They were busy, even in the late afternoon. There were three people ahead of me, but they work fast. Car was on the lift in less than half an hour. I was called into the work area by the mechanic, who pointed at a small hole in the exhaust by the catalytic converter. He was familiar with the car, had worked on it in the past. Asked me if it was getting louder. Said he'd weld the hole shut. No charge. The whole thing took about forty five minutes.

COTA, the city's municipal bus service has been negotiating with its bus drivers for some time. On Sunday night, a new contract was tentatively agreed upon by the union after a federal mediator stepped in. However, the drivers decided to strike today anyway. This is very, very bad public relations by the workers. Regardless of the compensation of the executive board, this crass act, after a weekend of storms and massive power outages in the city, is a slap in the face of the people who relay on them not only during difficult times, but every day.

Had to drive my wife to work today. Luckily a friend of ours graciously gave her a ride home. If they're still on strike Tuesday, this is going to wreak havoc with a lot of people's plans to go downtown to see the fireworks on Tuesday night. Picking up wife up from downtown late Tuesday afternoon is not something I look forward to.

Edit: and the union has rejected the proposed contract.