1.23.2011

17th Anniversary Travelogue

Seventeen years I've been married to my wife. Not all of them were good, but I have to take the blame for those that weren't. She's been nothing but good to me all this time, whether I've wanted to admit it or not. I'm admitting it now. I am sure I had no idea what "love" actually is until I spent a few years with her. It's certainly not like what I thought it was.

We went to Tulsa to celebrate last night so I thought I would write down a travelogue of sorts. This time next year (or several years down the road) I can come back to this and be reminded of the weekend, right down to the trivial details.

We left town just after two o'clock, having run some errands just before. The decision had been made to have dinner at Uno, which is a Chicago style pizza place that I had eaten at a long time ago. I remembered it being very good but that's all. We'd booked a room at the Marriot and planned on checking in immediately after eating.

Unfortunately things began to go awry before we even got to Tulsa. I normally don't use our GPS because we never figured out how to turn off the warning chime that goes off even if you're only going a couple of miles over the speed limit (I found out later that one of my wife's relatives had fixed it). But I decided to go ahead and use it since I wasn't completely sure of how to get to Uno. I didn't bother writing down driving directions, as I had no reason to believe that the GPS would steer me wrong.

But it did.

Oh, I'm sure the issues had more to do with faulty programming...and the fact that we hadn't updated it in a long time and there's a lot of construction on 44. I should have known that the first turn it directed us to make was not the one we should have made. It looked like a residential area. I don't know, it might have gone on through to where we wanted to go, but I wasn't going to risk driving on the slush and ice that was left over from the storm a few days ago (and which, by the way, was beginning to harden again as the temperatures descended). So we backed up and out, listened to the TomTom and turned right again 10 blocks down. At least this street didn't have the ice and appeared to be a through street.

It took us to I-44 and I finally knew where I was. I really thought I had it licked until the construction zone came into view. A massive undertaking, obviously. This is the point, I'm sure, when the GPS' insufficient data programming threw us completely off the path.

It wasn't TOO long a delay (meaning that it didn't take all that long, but ANY delay was TOO long at this point). I did find the street address. Or at least, I found the general vicinity. I've driven by Uno several times and I know what their sign looks like. I wasn't seeing it. We turned the GPS back on and it took us to the exact address. But there was no Uno. Apparently Uno had gone out of business. It would have been nice if their website hadn't said that they still had a location in Tulsa. Instead there was a T.G.I. Fridays...I think that's what it's called. I've seen their commercials on TV. Never struck me as a place I would want to eat at. The wife didn't express any desire to eat there, so we motivated in search of an alternate.

Eventually we decided on the Olive Garden. We both had steak. The wife had some kind of parmesan glazed sirloin (I think) and I had a slightly larger center cut steak, the style of which I could not tell you. Both ordered well done, no pink, as per our usual preference. Unfortunately, as is all too often the occasion, they were not delivered to us in quite the fashion in which we asked for them. Hers was noticeably pink in the middle. I don't think it was quite in the medium rare category, but pretty close. Mine wasn't quite as undercooked. It was only a tad beneath well done. Still, much pinker than I've ever eaten. But what are you gonna do? As for me, I figured I might as well see if I liked it that way (and to be honest, it was actually quite good). For whatever reason the wife decided not to send hers back. Instead she just used more steak sauce than she normally does. Apparently that helps. I personally would not have eaten it. I don't use nearly as much A-1 sauce as I used to. I used to prefer Heinz 57, but I'm just not as fond of it as I once was. A little too sweet. Now it's A-1, and sometimes I'll eat a few bites without any sauce at all (which is something I never would have done a couple of years ago). Most likely by this time next year I won't be using sauce at all. I probably shouldn't eat steak too often, but now that I've developed a taste for it, after so long being ambivalent about it, I will probably just have to cheat.

We checked in at the Marriot after our meal. It wasn't nearly as hard to find as our first would have been and it was still there.

The Marriot. A reputation for upscale accommodations there. I have to admit I felt like a fish out of water when we walked in. Lots of suits and hoity toity dispositions. All men who dressed as if they took fashion cues from Esquire or GQMarriot. I was very disappointed with it. Not to say that it detracted from the over all anniversary celebration. It did not. But when you pay over a hundred dollars a night for a room you don't expect to find a huge cockroach on the bathroom counter, hiding beneath a washcloth. You'd expect the television reception to look as if it wasn't piped in from an antenna. You might expect a microwave oven...nope, not at the Marriot. It shouldn't even be a consideration that the heating would be set to a comfortable temperature. Nope, not at the Marriot. We had it turned up to 85 and still chilly through the whole evening. Of course it must be conceded that the temperature outside was bitterly cold and the glass wall would be of no help. Then again, this is something I would expect from a flea bag cheap one night stand dump. Not a "quality" hotel like the Marriot. To top it off, I found three or four small pieces of what appeared to be Sun Chips when I moved a night stand. No wonder the roaches like that room so much. Is it possible for mice and rats to dwell in a location so far above the ground (8th floor)? If so I think they might find a little something to nibble on in our room.

The next stop was just down the road at the River Spirit casino. Whoa! Now this is one monster of a casino, at least by Oklahoma standards. Like an expensive carnival with countless flashing lights and cacophony that resembled nothing less that a thousand arcane video games gone haywire. We stayed for four hours, until we were both tired, and we still hadn't spent more than half of what we had planned to give to the Native Americans. I had some pretty good luck on the Wheel of Fortune Hawaii game. Won and lost. Won and lost. That's the theme. Didn't expect to walk out of there with any cash (not that I didn't hope), and I was not disappointed.

Next morning we checked out and drove across the street to the IHOP. New York cheesecake pancakes, hash browns (covered with ketchup and tabasco sauce) and a double helping of bacon (one of which was a substitute for eggs, which I won't eat). Coffee and large orange juice, the kind of breakfast that will keep you running till dinner. Never was big on eating at IHOP, but this time it was quite excellent.

As we had money in pocket that we didn't spend at the casino, we went to Barnes and Noble, where I spent at least a couple of hours browsing before the wife insisted that we leave, claiming that I was wearing holes in the carpet from walking back and forth to the different sections. I wound up buying two books on bipolar disorder and a Rolling Stone special edition about the stories behind the Beatles' songs. I may not have bought that Beatles thing but I figured my son would really like to read it. I doubt there's a lot information about them that I don't already know, but I'm sure I'll enjoy reading it anyway.

The trip home was (thankfully) uneventful, seeing as how I knew the route and didn't have to depend on the GPS' outdated information. Well, I SAY it was uneventful. I did miss the Sapulpa exit. I swear I didn't even see it, and neither did the wife. It was no big deal, as the highway we were on would eventually take us to our destination. We'd just have to deal with 7 or 8 extra miles. Actually I'm glad it worked out that way because I'd forgotten how much easier that road is than route 66 (the road I've been using for several years). I'm sure I'll use it from now on, since I have grown to hate 66 with it's treacherous curves and the little towns you have to slow down to get through.

It was a good trip, but it was just as good to get home. We decided to cap the weekend off with dinner at a restaurant in town that has great brisket. They only serve it as a Saturday special and I hadn't eaten it in several months. Wouldn't you know, they were out of brisket. Ribs are also on special Saturday nights. I'm not much of a rib eater at all, but I figured I'd try them and see. It was an hour before we got our order. Not paar for the course at this place, but I WAS hungry and we'd never had any problems before so we cut them a lot of slack. Now, this place has for a theme retro cars and stuff like that. It actually used to be a gas station in the 50s. They've got a line of antique soda bottles lined up in the window, most of which are still full of pop. It's pretty cool, but I found out last night that the placement next to a booth was unwise to say the least. I reached out to take off my coat and wouldn't you know it, knocked one of the bottles over. I tried to keep it from falling but in the process another fell, and in an astounding display of how the domino theory works, a couple more fell down. I managed to get things under control, but not before every single person in the restaurant was looking my way, each one laughing. They even started applauding, a gesture that I'm still unsure of how it applied. Ah, all in good fun, eh? I didn't take it too hard. It's a wonder it hadn't happened before, and that's probably what they were thinking as well.

I didn't like the ribs.

1.18.2011

Don Kirshner R.I.P.

Don Kirshner
April 17, 1934 - January 17, 2011

There's no way I can express how much influence Don Kirshner wielded in the development of my taste in music. "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert" was my absolute favorite show in the mid-late seventies. The New York Dolls, Sparks, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band...these and numerous other "under the radar" acts found their way into my house and my heart via this weekly hour of serious rock and roll. And that's not even taking into account his creation of the Monkees, who, for better or worse, also had a hand in shaping my musical tastes. For this I remain eternally grateful and if there is a band in heaven I'm sure he is managing it even as we speak.

1.08.2011

Our dog, Sireeno, is scheduled to be neutered on Thursday. A poem to commemorate this momentous, if dreadful, occasion.

I'm dreading the day of the final cut
Betwixt me legs, just under me butt
I don't know how long it will take me to heal
I still have a hard time believing it's real
O, man with the razor, please tell me why
I just want to be like any other guy
What will I do when I get the itch?
What will I do when I find me a bitch?
What can I do when I know she's in heat?
And I've got to tell her I ain't quite complete?
She'll laugh at me, sir, that's what she'll do
How would you feel if it happened to you?
Now I ain't the kind of dog to lay down and beg
And if my mother were here she'd bite your fat leg
But, mister, I ain't ready for this change
I'd rather have tapeworms, be covered with mange
Than to lose these babies, these jewels of mine
I want to be the father of a litter of nine
Nine little puppies who'd look up to me
Proud of their daddy! Proud of me!
But no, to you I'm just buttloads of cash
Ready with your knife, eager to slash
Who told you to do this horrible thing?
Leave 'em alone, sir, just let 'em swing

1.03.2011

Life's Worst Rock and Roll Moments Pale

This is a little off-the-cuff rant about a pictorial on the Life magazine website, entitled "Rock and Roll's Worst Moments". Needless to say I was a bit disappointed with their list.

The 13 "moments" they chose were:

1. Altamont
2. Milli Vanilli lip synching fiasco
3. The death of Jimi Hendrix
4. Jerry Lee Lewis marries young cousin
5. Stampede at Who concert
6. Elvis stops making music, starts making movies
7. Payola
8. Tupac Shakur's murder
9. Nightclub fire at Great White show
10. Sid & Nancy
11. Cher introduces auto-tune
12. Woodstock III
13. Chris Brown beats Rhianna

Some legitimate, others not quite so. Anyway...here's the rant:



A decent overview, but "worst"? What about Dimebag Darrell being murdered onstage during a show by a member of the audience? Or the more blatant omission of Lennon's murder? I'd say either one of those qualifies as "worse" than Cher's embracing of auto-tune technology (which never was rock and roll in the first place and never a threat). Kurt Cobain's suicide? Now THAT had an effect on the music and culture of rock and roll.

Kiss recording and promoting a disco song ("I Was Made for Loving You"), now ain't that a harbinger of bad tidings to come?

Sid and Nancy's story, tragic as it may be, is no less harrowing and unsettling as that of GG Allin, whose performance style on it's own could be a guiding light illuminating the death of rock and roll, or it's salvation depending upon who you're talking to. It's death because it took all the conventions of rock and roll and stripped them down to little more than primal aggression. Supporters would respond that such aggression is what rock and roll is all about. I see the position of both sides, though I tend to side with the one that posits his performance (and indeed, lifestyle) as something significantly less than what rock should be about (IMO). His life, his death and the legend are a testament to the extremities to which a person can go in completely wasting their lives. All of which flies beneath the radar of most people, even rock fans. A quick viewing of the documentary "GG Allin: Hated in the Nation" will tell you all you need to know. If you can make it past the first 10-20 minutes, that is. You will definitely see how GG Allin is one of Rock 'n' Rolls Worst "Moments".

And what about Lynyrd Skynyrd's airplane crash, killing, among others, lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant? That was pretty awful.

Personally I consider the Aerosmith/Run DMC to be a low point in the history of rock music. Oil and water don't mix, and that's why there are so many shitty bands out there trying to milk the unholy rap/rock hybrid.

Phil Spector accused and convicted of murdering his live-in girlfriend...that's pretty low. But you'd think, by viewing these photos in life, that the Milli Vanilli scandal was worse than that (or any of the above). Excuse me, Life...but what the hell did Milli Vanilli have to do with ROCK MUSIC in the first place? The photo layout singles out Jimi Hendrix's death as a "worse moment"...what about Jim Morrison? Or Janis Joplin? Is it okay to single him out and above the multitude of rock stars who kicked it too soon? Terrible moment, no doubt, but you add up all those kinds of moments and you've got hours.

The Payola scandal was...err...well, scandalous. But nothing compared to the way record companies were run, which made it possible for something like this to occur. Record labels, as early as 25 years ago, were not only in the business of selling albums. They also did whatever they had to in order to mold customers taste in music. A lot of people don't know that Sound Scan, the method Billboard uses to track chart success, is a relatively new thing. Have you noticed how the Top 200 CDs these days run the gamut from Susan Boyle to Coldplay to Tim McGraw to Radiohead to countless flash-in-the-pan "American Idol" winners (and "almost wons") to that extremely talented pre-pubescent girl who sings opera so beautifully and got her big break on "America's Got Talent". This diversity reflects the wide palette of musical taste that's common in America. But things were not so representative in the 80s. Practically every single one of the Top 200 Billboard albums was pop/rock. You would never see Garth Brooks at number 5 with a bullet (or even at number 200 with a bomb). And this was all made possible by label reps who could afford to send out P.R. men to lubricate the wheels of commerce. No, it wasn't Payola. But it may as well have been. They just didn't tender cash (at least they didn't get caught again). Lots of other things to barter with, like, say, in-studio appearances by major artists that guaranteed high ratings for the radio station, and in return the station would place said artist's songs into heavy rotation. Lots of other perks for all involved. It wasn't until the shock of Cobain's suicide that what may have been a majority of aspiring musicians decided that playing music for fun and artistic expression trumped hopes of becoming "famous" ("If Kurt couldn't handle fame, what makes me think I can?"). The seeds of the upheaval were planted 25 years ago when the Sex Pistols and The Clash spear-headed the punk movement. With the ascendancy of the Internet these D.I.Y. musicians and bands found the perfect medium for their craft. They could do thing their own way and, with the aid of music hosting sites like Garageband, Reverbnation and others, maybe even attract a few like-minded souls to listen to their stuff. Promotion being little more than exposure, they had no use for PR reps. The labels have become rendered practically obsolete, at least as concerns "rock and roll". Most of the more inventive, creative and original bands, be they indie or not, most likely don't even WANT to be on a major label. It's almost as if being signed to a label carries a social stigma that causes most(?) really good bands to stay away from even the prospect. The ones that DO sign and get fed into the promotion machine are looked upon as "lightweights". There are notable exceptions to this whole schpiel, and I should point out that having an album distributed by a major label is NOT the same as signing a recording contract with them. But for every Coldplay you've got a Nickelback. For every...uh, well, I'm sure I could think of a couple other examples, but I should save the mental effort for something a little less insignificant.

The article also lists Tupac's murder as one of "Rock's Worst Moments". It doesn't take a clairvoyant to know what I'm gonna say next. That's right. TUPAC SHAKUR IS ROCK??? Damn you, Tyler & Perry. Now everybody's all mixed up. No one knows what's what. Shakur's murder was a damn shame...but it had absolutely nothing to do with rock and roll. Come on, now. That's my whole point here. If you're gonna entitle a photo layout "Rock 'n' Roll's Worst Moments" you should at least stick to the genre, music and culture of rock and roll. Besides, everybody knows Tupac is alive.

Likewise, it's a damn shame that Chris Brown beat Rhianna. I got no sympathy for an individual who would raise a hand against a woman. Even if this story had something to do with rock and roll (it doesn't) you have to wonder how a short burst of domestic abuse compares to MURDER (see the bit about Phil Spector early on in this diatribe). Jeez, if I had a dollar for every rap artist who beat on women and didn't get caught (Brown's downfall) I could open up and run a center for battered and abused women. Not to single out the rappers...I'm sure rockers, over the decades, have done no better. But I don't think it's fair for this whole Brown/Rhianna shuffle tarnish the already stained history of rock and roll music.

What's my gripe, then? I don't suppose I have one. Rock and roll, as we have known it, is a dying breed. In fact, I'm afraid that the absolute worst moment in rock and roll is not too far over the horizon...when people will view it in much the same way they do the swing bands of the forties. If you're gonna single out "worst moments" you should at least put some thought behind your choices, and I personally don't think the editors of Life have done that.