Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas in the Heartland

Just got back from spending Christmas week in the land of Tootsie's birth, suburban Youngstown/Warren Ohio. We spend every Christmas there; have done since we moved back to La Nouvelle Angleterre in August of 2000. Two very funny things happened but before I get to that, I would be remiss if I didn't mention one thing.

That one thing is this: that little corner of the world, one that I've come to know intimately and even love, has been just crushed by the economic downturn. They have a big stretch of US Route 422 - they call it "the Strip" - that for as long as I've known it (and decades before, according to Toots) has been a bustling commerce mecca throughout its entire length. Strip mall, plaza, restaurant, every other conceivable commercial enterprise was to be found there by the dozen; if I decided, for example, that I needed a dozen of the guitar picks that I use (Jim Dunlop USA nylon .88's), I had my choice of perhaps three different stores in a two-mile length of road.

But that kind of prosperity is gone.  Storefronts stand empty and sad; whole strip malls are un-rented except for a Goodwill donation center; and the only shiny new businesses are payday loan and check-cashing joints, the twin bottom feeders of an economy in free-fall.

I know this is happening to an extent everywhere in the country but Youngstown has been in the shitter for thirty years, not having recovered from when big Steel left, in the '80s. Besides, this patch of dirt holds people that I've known and loved for decades, and it tugs a bit at the ol' heartstrings to see such widespread ill-fortune to an area who has barely held its head above water for so long.


Two very funny things happened during my time away.  The first thing is...well, a little background first: I have this thing I do, it's the perfect combination of funny and creepy that defines me so well to those who know me.  When anyone has anything removed from their bodies, I offer them comically small amounts of money for whatever it is.  For example, I offered Josie eight bucks for her gall bladder, and a buck for each gallstone contained therein.  My usual line after the offer is "Don't ask me what I want it for - that's MY business."

Well, for the first time, it happened:  on Christmas Eve, as we were making merry, my nephew Jacob lost a primary tooth. I told him that if I could snag that tooth, Mr. Washington (a dollar bill) would find its way to Jake's piggy bank. He thought a while...

...and handed that bad boy right over.  And after I recoiled in horror and told him to wash it off first, I happily took possession of another human being's tooth. As you can imagine, it was a huge source of comedy throughout the entire week.  Me and Toothy (I named him Toothy) had a swell time.

Oh Toothy, you and I are gonna be pals...

The second thing funny that happened was, within 10 seconds of our scheduled departure, I received a phone call from...Lightning! What are the odds!! Of course, he's the only person with a blog I got a call from, but that's probably just me being petulant.  Anyway, after a few Yuletide pleasantries, he came to his point:  he actually wanted to test me in Beatles trivia.  Oh, sure, he knows I'm good, but I don't think he realized that I was great, that I work in Beatles trivia like Da Vinci worked in oils.  The subject of the day was B-sides of 45's (kids, look it up).  Lightning heard Paul's ode to prostitution, Lady Madonna, on the radio, and asked me if I knew what song was the B-side to the single.  I did in fact know, not only that L.M. was the last single released on Capitol Records, the Beatles' own label Apple taking over after that point, but that the B-side was in fact the last of the George sitar trilogy, a song called The Inner Light, which approximately nobody knows. I told him that, and sang him a few bars, and he was impressed.  He actually threw one more at me:  What was the B-side to Paperback Writer?  I could barely contain my smugness as I told him it was Rain ("When the rain comes, they run and hide their heads...") and he finally acknowledged that I was The Master Of All Things Beatles.  It was a good feeling.

The ride home was 11 hours and 32 minutes of misery.   It pissed down rain over 550 miles; all the ham I'd eaten over the week came home to haunt me and I needed to stop and piss every 40 miles; it actually snowed at the higher elevations of Interstate 80, including this ironically-named town:

Caption unnecessary
But, home we finally got, shortly after midnight this morning.  I have re-ensconced myself on the couch, with Pearl at my side, and facing the reality of having to knock off some more leftover ham for lunch.

It's good to be home.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Couple of Updates and a chuckle

Update 1:

I know how you feel, my brother

I was going over some old posts recently and I happened on a post that indicated I would tell you about my attempts to parlay a small amount of money into a larger one on one of the few online sites where I was allowed to play.  Sorry to keep you in the dark but - and I know this will come as a galloping shock to you - I busted out fairly soon after my hubristic predictions of success.  I wish at this late date I could remember the details but I don't.  I don't recall a horrific bad beat so I'm guessing what took me down was either lack of cards or lack of talent.  It's 6:5 and pick 'em as to which it was.

Update 2:

If ever there were a picture that didn't need a caption, c'est ceci.

 I received my first defeat in Scrabble in months today, at the hands of my idiot stupidhead fucktard dinkus genius brother (who else?).  However in my defense I called bullshit on the game twice, both times obviously in Hrothgar's favor.  First it wouldn't let me play "Soapdish," which would have netted me roughly a billion points, for playing on a double word score and emptying my tray.  Then it allowed Ross to play "Chevy," which I guess it allowed because it should have been double-dinged, once for being a brand name, another for being a proper name.  Those fuckers.  I hate Chevy cars too.  So there, you dickbags.

And finally your weekend chuckle:  Do a google image search for "slutty around the edges" and check out the first picture of a girl that you see.

Happy Sunday all! F-O-O-T-B-A-L-L- goooooooooooo FOOTBALL!!

Auf Wieder Sehen.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Like Scrabble? Like to Lose?

Find me on the Eff Bee, friend me, and challenge me to a game of Words with Friends.  And prepare to have your hinder handed to you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Another Post about the Beatles

Had an interesting conversation with Tootsie today. We were watching a show on BBC America that had Sir Cliff Richard on it. He is the reigning king of British pop, with a career that started when he was 17, in 1960 or so. He and his band, the Shadows, were playing the big theaters in London when the Beatles were still a local act playing the Cavern Club in far off Liverpool. I mentioned to her that the Beatles had actually written a song about Cliff Richard, called Cry For a Shadow, which of course she had never heard. It's an interesting song; it has a number of interesting trivia bits about it. For example it's one of only two instrumental songs the Beatles ever did, the other being Flying, off of the Magical Mystery Tour album. It's also the only song they ever did that represents a songwriting compilation between John and George. Considering it was performed in 1960, it's pretty rocking song. YouTube "cry for a shadow" and you will be able to hear it. For Beatles fans it's worth the 2 1/2 min. investment of time.

Anyway, that got me thinking about Beatles trivia, and I thought I would lay a little on you, hopefully stuff that you have never heard before. Some people, of course, hate it when I pontificate about the Fab Four, but I don't care:

One of the Beatles' first photo shoots, ca. 1959 or so.
The guy you don't recognize is Pete Best, their first drummer

* In April of 1964, the Beatles managed a feat that had never been done before and has yet to be done since: they occupied the top five spots on the top 40 charts. The songs were Can't Buy Me Love, Twist and Shout, She Loves You, I Want to Hold Your Hand, and Please Please Me. In addition, they had seven other songs in the top 100 for a total of 12 altogether – and that too has never been accomplished since.

*The musical innovation that the Beatles demonstrated was staggering. I've written on this forum before about how the song She Loves You was the first pop song to be written from the perspective of an outside observer: she loves you. Yes, song lyrics have advanced since then, but for the time it was an innovation.

* The song From Me to You was the first pop song in a major key but with the middle eight in a minor key; the verses are in the key of C and the middle eight bit ("I've got arms that long to hold you…") Is in G minor.

* The Beatles sold their 150 millionth album on August 3, 1966. They had yet to produce Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, the White Album, Yellow Submarine, or Abbey Road.

* Speaking of the White Album (official name: the Beatles), it was John's idea to release an album with an all white cover, but it was Paul's idea to have each album stamped with a serial number in its first pressing. Low numbers are prized by collectors; a few years back the copy of the White album stamped 0000009, given by John to his chauffeur, sold on eBay for $18,000. Sometime later, album number 0000005, considered the holy Grail of White Albums because the Beatles themselves took copies one through four, fetched $27,000, making it one of the most valuable albums ever. If you're curious, by the way, the top three most valuable albums ever sold are all Beatles albums, the most valuable of which was an acetate pressing of John Paul and George singing a song called In Spite Of All the Danger, in 1958 in Paul's dad's living room. John was 18, Paul was 16, and George was only 15. Its value: about $200,000.

* This post is already overlong so I'll close it with a personal observation: whenever I think of John Lennon, and his desperate need to tell the truth through his songwriting, however painful it was, I always think of one line from a song of his: Julia, his beautiful song about his mother, whom he lost when he was only 15. The line so perfectly encapsulates John that sometimes it still brings a lump to my throat, 30 years after I heard it for the first time: "When I cannot sing my heart, I can only speak my mind."

I guess that's enough for now. If you're one of those people that don't like the Beatles, FUCK YOU. You have shitty taste in music. The Beatles are the best that ever were, and ever will be. Not opinion, just fact.

A pic from the last Beatles photo session.
"And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What Women Like vs. What Men Like, Part I

What women like:

Romantic Comedies (even bad ones)

Baths with bath oil

Werewolves with six-pack abs

Sharing their feelings


Shoes with red soles

Shopping and not buying

All things Kardashian

Guys who treat them poorly

What men like:


The Three Stooges


Women who are a little slutty around the edges