Monday, September 5, 2016

Crank Old Guys Club

This meeting of the cranky old guys club is now called to order. (Sound of gavel pounding)

It’s true. Stuff that I would have shrugged off a mere 5 (or possibly 10) years ago now annoys the s*** out of me. 
Examples? Ooooooh, have I got examples.

  •    Sequels to movies that were turkeys in the first place. Exhibit A—The Thomas Crown Affair. The original was a ho-hum thriller with the always phlegmatic Steve McQueen and the monotone mumbler Ali McGraw. The remake starred the sleek and emotionless Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo, who makes even Ali look animated.

  • Speaking of movies, why do we have to sit through a dozen trailers, seven commercials and a 20 minute whoring of television shows to get to the featured movie? It’s enough to put a guy off his popcorn.

  • High tech golf gadgets. Here’s a typical conversation on the golf course with me and Mr. GPS.

Mr. GPS: How far do you think it is from here to the hole? 
Me:(Eyeballing 150 yard post and flagstick) Maybe 165 yards.
 Mr. GPS:  Wrong! It’s 167.4587 yards.
 Me:  Great! I wouldn’t want to make a big mistake and swing my 165 yard club and come up  2.4587 yards short.      
The average weekend golfer is not even sure he will hit the ball, let alone know exactly how far he’s going to hit it. I vote to restrict GPS usage to those who want to get hopelessly lost in a strange city when a road map could have told them where to go.

  • People who constantly take big risks by zooming from lane to lane in gridlocked traffic. Got news for you, pal. When we finally make it to the Interstate Bridge, you’re going to be right beside me again. With some luck you'll get to your destination 2.4587 seconds earlier than if you'd just cooled your jets and waited.

  • Freeway or major highway exits that don’t offer an immediate way back on to aforementioned highway or freeway. Having zoned out on my way to take a friend to the airport recently, I slid off one exit too soon and wandered through an east Vancouver neighborhood for 20 minutes trying to get back to the big asphalt. What they need is a GPS with a voice that shrieks “You’re taking the wrong exit, numbskull.”

  • Electronic music. I’m sorry, but it takes no talent to program a computer to repeat the same series of synthesized drum rhythms from now until the end of time. One of our water aerobics instructors favors this insult to music lovers during her deep water workouts and I have to fight the urge to tear off my flotation device, sink to the bottom of the pool and stay there.

  • Food manufacturers who try to jack their profit margins by whittling down package sizes. Did you know ice cream no longer comes in a half gallon? Instead, you’re buying 1.75 quart containers. Note to the folks at the Tillamook creamery. Charge me an extra 25 cents and put the ice cream in half gallons like God intended them to be.

There’s more but I’ll save it for the next meeting. Hopefully I can include some of your faves.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Walden – 2016 Style

Carolyn J. Rose


Recently yet another acquaintance criticized me for not having my cellphone turned on all the time, and for having no idea how to send a text or a tweet. Since the statement was about her, not me, I didn’t respond. But, believe me, I was tempted to point out that the issue was her convenience, not mine.

The fact is, I don’t want to be constantly connected. I enjoy the hours spent without a phone ringing—not matter how cute the ringtone may be. I enjoy silence or, if the window is open, the sounds of the birds, the breeze, and my neighbors as they go about their days.

My neighborhood is a long way from Walden Pond, and yet I feel a kinship with Henry David Thoreau. Although he lived alone at the pond for two years, he was only a mile from his nearest neighbor. He had visitors. He walked to town. He joined his family for an occasional dinner. But, by and large, he stripped his life down to what he felt was necessary.

So, when I consider the criticism of those tethered to their technology, I keep Thoreau in mind. Would the man who said “inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract us from serious things” have owned a cell phone? Would the man who said “men have become tools of their tools” have kept his cellphone on 24/7? Would the man who said “beware of all enterprises that require new clothes” buy a fancy case for his phone?

I’m pretty sure the answer to each of those questions is “No.”

So, I’m with Henry D. I’m keeping pace to a different drum. Think of my low-tech corner of the world as a kind of Walden, a place of refuge from a plugged-in, dialed-in, wired world, a place where I can be in touch only when I want to.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Warning Labels

Carolyn J. Rose    

A few days ago I made more than my usual snack-food foray into the kitchen and entered with the intention of cooking a complete meal. (Okay, it was a casserole. But it contained all the food groups—if you count asparagus as a fruit.)

While rummaging in the pantry, however, I got sidetracked by the warning labels that now seem to be everywhere. This one told me not to eat raw biscuit dough.


Some of the greatest joys of my childhood involved snitching gobs of cookie dough, licking cake batter from the beaters, and tweaking off pieces of pie crust when my grandmother wasn’t looking. Apparently I was lucky to avoid potentially dangerous bacteria lurking in raw eggs and flour, lucky to avoid serious illness, lucky to live to grow up.

Don’t get me wrong. I think most warning labels are a good idea. I was glad when they were posted on cigarettes, liquor, medications, and even power tools. 
 I was not so glad to see warnings about hot drinks, but I understood the purpose. We live in a litigious society where covering your ass has to do with more than putting on underwear. I get that. But I also think labels can “nanny” us too much, and even encourage us to sidestep responsibility and perhaps limit our thinking and learning.

For example, the label that told me not to eat raw dough didn’t tell me why, didn’t tell me raw egg and raw flour could be hazardous to my health. So, if I’d decided to make a cake from scratch—borrowing ingredients from my neighbor so I didn’t see the packaging labels—and licking the spatula and beaters, I might even now be in an emergency room.

After reading the paper this morning and seeing yet another article about children left in a hot car, I wondered if the next step is warning stickers on cars and trucks. Or even on children themselves. WARNING: DO NOT EXPOSE SMALL HUMANS TO EXTREMELY HIGH OR LOW TEMPERATURES, DEEP WATER, PRECIPICES, HIGHWAYS, ETC.


Which leads me to one place I’d like to see warning labels—really large labels.

On politicians.

What would be on such labels? Here’s my off-the-top-of-my-head list.


What’s on your list? Leave me a comment.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Me n' Eldon at Prostate Puffy's

The idea for this blog came when Carolyn and I were perusing the schedule for the upcoming "Summer Music in the Park," series in the newspaper. We love going down to Vancouver's Esther Short Park on Thursday nights with friends and sampling the food vendors while we groove on music ranging from R and B and disco to hard rock to light classical. We couldn't help but notice there were a couple of cover bands included into the schedule including 'Stone in Love' a Journey tribute band, (Meh, since I wasn't crazy about the original group) and 'Petty Fever' who I'm hoping will do a good job recreating rock and roll's most magnetic mumbler, Tom Petty. Anyway, we started talking about what it might be like to spend your life playing in tribute bands and I invoked my imaginary friend to weave this tale. 

  "A new low, man, even for me. I’ve hit rock and roll bottom and I’m still falling,” my silver ponytailed fellow bar fly wailed.
Every grizzled head in Prostate Puffy’s Baby Boomer Saloon snapped around to find out what the ruckus was. I lowered my head and licked the salt off the rim of my third “house special” margarita—made with the finest no-name tequila Puffy could buy for cheap on his thrice yearly field trips to Juarez. Finally the other members of m-m-my generation who’d chosen this night and this bar to self-medicate returned to the women’s beach volleyball match on the twelve-foot-wide HD screen at the far end of the room.
“I mean, a musician’s gotta take whatever comes along to survive, right?” Eldon “Bottom Feeder.” Porterhouse drained his stubby-sized bottle of Blitz and signaled Puffy for another. He’s not called that, by the way because of his taste in seafood or marginal moral character. In musician’s parlance, the “bottom” is the bass line of a song. Eldon thrum thrum’s the low notes with the best of them.
Puffy dipped his hand into the cooler for Eldon’s beer. Note her that P.P refuses to knuckle-under to the craft beer craze. No Tutti-Frutti IPA or Avocado Ale at the Baby Boomer Saloon. Blitz and Olympia only. In stubbies. Which, considering it’s been decades since the companies have offered these brews, makes you wonder if Puffy, in a prescient moment, bought up a ****pot of it back in the 70’s foreseeing this moment in time.
It felt like the right time to commiserate. “Hey, a gig’s a gig, right? You’re a bass player. Somebody wants to pay you to play bass. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.”
He pushed his lips in and out as he reached to snag the replacement bottle Puffy opened and slid down the bar. Eldon’s voice fell to a mumble. “Another tribute band. Why me? Why always me?”
A little history here. I met Eldon in San Francisco in 1975 when he played bass with a hot psychedelic trio called “The Fig Pluckers.” When that band imploded after the lead guitarist and songwriter decided to cut his hair and sell life insurance and the drummer left for sexual reassignment surgery in Sweden, Eldon began nearly five decades of touring with groups that got paid to sound like bands that had hit the charts. Even if their fame was fleeting.
“Hey, it couldn’t be as bad when you played with the 1911 Chewy Fruit Corporation.” I tried to provide some perspective.
He glugged beer. “The 1910 Fruitgum Company’s fans were crazed,” he acknowledged. “One night we played ‘Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I’ve Got Love in My Tummy’ 27 times in a row before they’d let us leave the arena.”
I marveled. “An arena? I didn’t know you played any arenas.”
He shook head, the silver ponytail bobbing from side-to-side. “Actually it was a skating rink. But a guy’s got to have a fantasy life, right?”
“Right,” I agreed. “So, what was the worst tribute band you ever played in?”
“The next one,” he growled. “If I decide to take the job.” He drank. “Who am I kidding? I’ve gotta pay my rent.”
“Was it the Grass Roots sound-alike band?” I asked.
“The Fescue Four? Naw, that was an okay tour. Hey we even opened for the Stones.”
“The Rolling Stones? Wow, I didn’t know that you’d—”
A collective gasp rose up from the crowd watching the beach volleyball. I saw a tall Amazonian yank up the top of her bikini and fist bump her partner as their opponents waved helplessly at the ball that skidded across the sand past them.  
“Not the Rolling Stones. The Stolen Stones. Their tribute band at the time.”
“Oh.” I deflated.
“They weren’t bad. You know how somebody described Mick Jagger as a rooster on acid?”
“The Stolen Stones’ lead singer reminded people of a walrus on Quaaludes.”
I knew it would take at least two more ‘Ritas to erase that image from my mind. “So what was the weirdest cover band you played in?”
He thought about it. “Probably the “Ho-Ho’s.”
“As in who you callin’ Ho, Ho? What band were you—?
“The Go Gos. Ho Ho, Go, Go. Get it?”
“Almost. But they were an all-girl band. And you—
“Looked pretty damn fine in a mini-skirt. Or so they tell me.”
“You played ‘We Got the Beat’ in drag?”
“From Maine to California, Dude. The money was pretty good.”
I eyeballed Eldon and tried to imagine. “So how did that band break up?”
“Band manager said my beard had to go.” Eldon ran his fingers through his chin whiskers. “Hey, musically I may be a Ho, but I do have my pride.”
“Okay that was strange but which tribute band is the stuff of your nightmares?”
“So really, which was the worst of all of the bands you played with?”
Eldon drained half his and mumbled. “Kind of a toss-up.” 
“Between” . . . I goaded.
“The Starchies.” He smiled at the memory. “Remember the TV cartoon show The Archies?   
“Vaguely. Wasn’t their hit called ‘Sugar, Sugar’?”
“That memory flogger just earned you another drink.” He signaled Puffy and pointed at my empty glass. “There never was a real group called The Archies. Somebody wrote the song for the TV show and they threw some studio guys together to record it. When it hit number one, they decided they needed to send a band out to tour behind it. Then, another genius in A and R figured out they could make more money with a dozen bands calling themselves The Archies, playing simultaneously.”
“And at the same time?”
“Give the man the Jughead hat.” He grinned and drank.
“And The Starchies?”
“We formed up about two years later. We wore clothes and styled our hair like the cartoon characters.”
“Which one were you.”
“Veronica. Smart ass. Anyway, the tour lasted for two months before the lead vocalist got a part in the Albuquerque production of ‘Hair’.”
Puffy put another salty-rimmed drink in front of me. I sipped it, made a face and thanked Eldon.
“And then . . .” He closed his eyes as he remembered, “There was the Phallic Pop-Guns.”
I tried to picture Eldon’s fingers flying across the bass during the Pop Gun’s version of the Sex Pistols ‘Anarchy in the U.K. or ‘God Save the Queen’.
Eldon reached for a cigarette, put it in his mouth, then remembered the no smoking in public places laws. “Dammit.” He snorted before putting the smoke back in the pack. “They had Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten.”
“And you had—?”
“Vic Shiftless and Ronny Juttin. Actually it was a good gig for a while. The music was easy to play and all we had to do was flop our heads, snarl a lot and jump up and down to the beat.”
“How’d that one end?”
“I had to quit. Vomiting on demand was messing up my health.”
We drank in silence for a while. “So, are you going to take the job? The next tribute band?”
“Dunno?” Eldon was glum. “I may have to. I got nothing else going. And besides, they sent me a T-shirt.” He reached down for the case that held his bass, snapped it open, and reached in to retrieve a shirt.
A cheer erupted from the beach volleyball fans. I looked up to see two of the bikini-stuffed athletes flailing away at each other with a referee trying to separate them. One of them cold-cocked him and he hit the sand like a wet pelican that forgot how to fly.
When my attention returned to Eldon, he held up a plum-colored double extra large t-shirt that read _______________. 
“Oh dear God no.” I said. “They’re really going to go out and tour as _______________?”
Eldon pulled out the bass and played a couple of licks from _______________’s quasi-hit record. “Fraid so. Time for me to go out and make a living as a cover band Ho.”

Now comes the reader participation portion of your reading experience. What did the caption on Eldon’s T-shirt read? What tacky piece of art accompanied it? And which abysmal band was he being paid to cover? Have fun with this and insert your creativity in a comment.