Welcome To Tony's Scattershot Thoughts On Minutiae

Location: Fresno, California

Monday, December 10, 2007

Merry X-Mess

Okay, everyone has Christmas memories. Most of us relate holidays past with toys we received or food we used to eat. In that regard, for me it's the talking GI Joe ("Enemy planes---hit the dirt!") and sugar cookies topped with Duncan Hines frosting sprinkled with what looked like green and red shards of glass. But as we get older, Christmas memories don't seem to stick like they used to. So as we get a couple of weeks out from St. Nick's ninja-like break-in, I'd like to relate one of this season's observations so far before it fades....

Every block has its Griswold house. Mine is two houses down. In the last few years, the family of inflatable holiday characters has grown into a virtual Island Of Misfit Toys. When a Santa-hat-wearing SpongeBob SquarePants appeared on their roof line, I almost crashed into my neighbor's Suburban. The phenomenon of these fan powered mini Macy's New Year's Day balloons will prove to be a fad, I'm sure. I actually enjoy them at night, but when they're unplugged and deflated during the day they look like holiday-themed spent condoms strewn about someone's yard by the likes of Godzilla or King Kong.

Just the other day, my wife and I went for a walk and passed a house with what looked like a vinyl crime scene. I stopped in the middle of the street to take in the carnage. It was as if I were the first person to come upon a Christmas character drug deal gone wrong shootout at the North Pole. Frosty The Snowman was folded flat over the porch rail, but twisted at the waist (or snowball section, as it were) so that his coal smile now looked like an agonized death wince. An elf was looking at me holding a hammer, still smiling but trapped inside a collapsed snowglobe as if he were choked out gangster-style via the ol' plastic bag suffocation method. On the other side of the driveway in the side yard, another snowman---surely one of Frosty's underlings---lay across the hood and wheel well of a Mazda. One of those lighted wire reindeer was knocked over as the other two grazed; probably still in shock, I thought. Then I saw Santa.

Santa lay face down on the frosted lawn, his mitten covered hands palms up at the end of arms that spread away from the torso like wings of a paper airplane and his legs were bent painfully forward at the shins. His deflated head looked like something out of the black and white photos I remember seeing in the Time-Life books depicting dead outlaws of the Old West. I imagine he never saw it coming, that cold blooded shot to the back of the head. Whatever this was, be it a drive-by or calculated attack, the success could not be disputed.

I described to my wife what we may have witnessed and she laughed a little as she looked around the yard. "You're right honey", she said, "it does look like a something a sick, perverted idiot would imagine".

We both laughed and I feigned concern that we should alert the authorities. She looked at me with a furrowed brow, but then put me at ease. "Well, when they all get plugged in tonight, they'll be alright".

I love it. I imagine a Reservoir Dogs scenario for these inflatable characters and she tries to assure me that they'll all be okay come nightfall when the homeowner plugs them back in.

Kind of like putting the top hat back on Frosty's head.

Happy Birthday indeed.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Smile.....life is good

I have an uncanny knack for hiding my feelings and carrying on in the real world. I can be having the blackest day in my head, feeling low and discouraged or even mean and sour but when I encounter another human I turn it off and engage them as I would normally. I don't feel the need for validation of my morose attitude towards the world and I don't mope around taking solace that others care by saying things like, "what's got you down?" or "who pissed in your Wheaties this morning?" I do this with everyone; family, friends, grocery clerks, whomever I come into contact with and this becomes especially handy in my line of work.

Some sales reps look at their day to day work as a sort of performance and they are on stage in front of clients. I suppose this is true to an extent, but I don't ever want to be disingenuous with clients because I have to cultivate the relationship and I'd certainly rather do this on the merit of my true personality than an act that I have to revive on each visit. In doing this, I have forged true friendships along with strong and successful business relationships that benefit both parties.

Today, I had a day in which I can only describe myself as non-plussed. I wasn't down or depressed, but I wasn't especially happy or excited either. I had a really good workout this morning and a healthy breakfast before working for a while in my home office. Then it was off to a couple of accounts and then maybe pick up the new Heaven and Hell live CD if there was time. I moved through the day like an efficient machine, but as I look back, I find that there was little range in my emotions. Sort of a flat line on the monitor.

As I entered one of my accounts to visit one of my favorite new clients, I changed my internal attitude to greet her. She came out from one of the back offices just beaming. (I was handling something for her that was "saving the day"). She thanked me and said that she was glad to see me, not just for the service, but that I always brighten her day because I'm so pleasant and personable. She added that she was having a somewhat "blah" day where she felt like she was just going through the motions and looked forward to our meeting because she knew that she'd at least have one positive experience today.

I was a bit stunned. I knew that I was in my typical persona, but had no idea that I made that sort of impression on anyone. Ironically, she'd had the same exact effect on me, not because of her compliment, but due to her demeanor. My day instantly got better and my outlook improved a little. We both chatted for a few minutes before I let her return to work. She gave me a really warm smile as we said goodbye. Outside, I glanced up and saw her through the window and waved good-bye with a little flick of the wrist. She noticed me, straighted her back and waved back with enthusiasm and a big grin.

I got in my truck and started to head home. I had a stupid smile on my face. What a difference a little human interaction can make. I began to form cliche thoughts regarding how we humans treat each other. Why not be nice? Why do some people go out of their way to negatively affect someone else's day? Then onto bigger and more important issues; why do we fight? Why can't we all just.....

Okay, I thought, that's enough of that shit. It will only depress you. So I went to Best Buy and bought the new Heaven and Hell live disc and began to daydream about seeing them in October here in Fresno. Traffic was light and I made good time getting home, all the while blasting those Sabbath classics and still with that stupid smile on my face.

Later at home, I was making dumb jokes and basically playing grab ass with my wife. She'd talked to me earlier in the day and noticed that I was a bit melancholy (she's one to take notice) and now commented on my goofy mood. I didn't mention anything specific, but just said that it turned out to be a pretty good day after all.

Thanks, fellow human.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bluesday The 27th

Man, what a melancholy day I had. I wasn't depressed. I wasn't happy. I just........was.

I was still a little tired from Sunday night's Who concert (which I may have to write about over on Tony's Hazy Concert Memories) all day Monday, so I was surprised when I had trouble falling asleep last night. Then I tossed and turned for some reason and didn't sleep well all. I began to awake every 30 minutes or so starting around 4am. Thankfully, I got some true slumber between 5:30am and 7:00am, but that got me out of bed much later than I prefer and I felt like I was behind some sort of fictional schedule.

I did a little email recon while I caffeinated myself properly and then skimmed the paper with a light breakfast. A good start, even if I felt like I had some time to make up. My wife called from work and gave me some advice.

I've been job hunting a bit lately and yesterday was draining because I spent most of the day on the computer sending out resumes and corresponding with potential employers. It was productive in the sense of accomplishment, but my brain was a bit frazzled. I wonder now if it contributed to my sleep disorder, but would have guessed I'd slept better being so exhausted. Anyway, my wife noticed that I was out of sorts and suggested that I "take the day off" to get some shopping done and maybe even have what we call a Tony Day.

A Tony Day usually consists of me doing stuff I consider fun but my wife has little or no interest in. For example, browsing for CDs and books to me is a great day out, but for my wife it is The Bataan Death March. I shop for music and words like time is standing still, but when Mary's beside me, she acts like she's standing on hot coals.

Mary thought that a Tony Day might boost my spirits and recharge my battery a bit. I mulled over her suggestion for a moment and agreed. After hanging up with her, I finished up on the computer and decided to put off my visit to the gym until the afternoon. I showered and dressed to head out into the day.

I needed some new running shoes, so that would be my first destination. I think my testosterone drops drastically when I shop for shoes, any kind of shoes, because I fit the stereotype of the woman who can't decide on a pair. To me, buying shoes is very stressful because I never feel like I'm getting an accurate portrayal of the shoes while doing some sort of fashion runway jag up and down the shoe aisle. I feel like an idiot. Someone should invent a machine that can give you the feel of the shoes a few days into the purchase. I mean, most of the time, when you try on a shirt or pair of pants you know what they're gonna feel like in a few days. If anything, they'll feel better after a cycle in the wash. But new shoes are stiff and if you've worn old broken in shoes to try on new ones, you might as well try on a suit of armor after wearing pajamas.

I got really lucky and found a nice pair of Asics that didn't feel like I was trying on ski boots and I was able to get to the fun stuff. I decided to head over to Best Buy to browse around the CDs. I took a quick look at the cellphones because the wife wants an upgrade to Bluetooth technology. Most of the nicer phones have MP3 abilities and video capture functions. I have no problem with that, but can I get a phone that doesn't look like it should have Hello Kitty logos all over it? Hot Pink, Cherry Red, and something that looked like baby barf were the prominent colors. All the black phones looked like the ones that come with candy in them at 7-11.

I headed over to the CD section and dove in without a mental checklist of music I'm always looking for. If anything, I had a taste for something heavy and aggressive to put on the MP3 player for times at the gym, but it would have to be just right. I wasn't in the mood to experiment. Otherwise, I was ready for something to strike my fancy or perhaps find a nice deal on something in my cue of "I'm gonna pick that up someday" titles. A stroll down the first aisle should have told me what was in store for me. Nothing.

What a dismal experience. It happens to me every once in a while where I get no inspiration to buy anything, even a known commodity or something off of that "I'm gonna...." list. I kept looking. Motorhead's Ace Of Spades? Feh. I'd recently seen a VH1 Classic special on the making of the album and thought I'd better get the reissue with bonus tracks someday. I have the cassette up in the attic gathering dust along with the remnants of my 80s musical heritage and I'd like to upgrade the copy. But not today.

Hmm, there's Blue Oyster Cult's Legacy Edition of the live album Some Enchanted Evening, I thought. The original issue of the LP was one of the first rock records I bought with my own money and it holds a special place in my heart. The expanded version has a few more live tracks on the CD and comes with a bonus DVD from a 1978 concert in Landover, MD. But at almost 30 bucks and the Internet beckoning to have me pay less whenever I want, I passed. Besides, as much as I love BOC and that album, it's not what I was in the mood for. But what was I in the mood for?

This went on for another half hour. Iron Maiden? Shrug. How about that live Sabbath double set with Ozzy? Not today, I'm afraid. Maybe something new. Now, what have I heard lately that would hold my interest? Heavy stuff? Forget it, they all sing like Froggy from The Little Rascals.

Today, I felt empty as I strolled along the Fergie, Ludacris, and Fall Out Boy displays. I thought about it for a moment and realized that it just wasn't my day. I've had times in my life where I had no inclination of going to a record store, but something would will me into the dearly departed Tower Records or even a big chain box store like Best Buy. Those times would be serendipitous and I would explain it to Mary that "God told me to go record shopping today". There are times when I put an LP or CD on and I smile when I remember that I bought it on a day when The Father spoke to me, even if it was to buy that elusive Gillan live LP.

But today, God was busy. Or his GPS signal to me got scrambled because Best Buy didn't have shit. So, nonplussed about the CD hunting, I started to leave when I spied my friend Chris "Lefty" Brown. We talked for a little while and I was glad to have seen him. It reminded me that I have good friends that I don't see enough of. Ironically, he had the day to himself and was in the same frame of mind when it came to shopping. I was running out of Tony Day time and had to get back to hit the gym with Mary. I considered cancelling the workout and having lunch with Lefty, but I really felt like hitting it hard at the gym and I knew that if I ate at that time of day, I'd be looking for a comfy chair instead of a shoulder press machine when I got home.

I did duck into Borders to check on the latest British rock mags before heading home. I love Mojo and the other book-thick magazines from overseas, but at a price that hovers around ten bucks I have to make some decisions. Never a huge Beatles fan, I passed on the MOJO special edition telling the behind the scenes story of the making of Sgt Peppers. The other mags had little to interest me so I checked on the music/performing arts section to see if some books in my "cue" had hit paperback status yet. No luck. Klosterman's Volume IV still sat there with firm covers. Andy Summers' book One Train Later sounds interesting, especially with the Police reunion tour coming up, but I can't hand over $25.00 to read about something I have a marginal interest in.

A little dejected, I left to head home with only what a child would consider horrible Christmas presents; running shoes and new athletic socks. I had the day to myself and a little disposable income to blow and couldn't find a needle for the vein. I think I need another jaunt over to the coast to flip through the endless racks of used CDs and dog eared books. Hey God, I'm listening.

I got home and Mary was ready to hit the gym after a little rest from her hard day at work. I changed and we drove over. I wasn't sure what to expect considering my flat lined attitude, but once I started the workout I turned into a machine of sorts and hit the weights pretty hard. Normally I use the MP3 player strategically, but today I just let it go and instead of the usual Rollins Band or Tool, I punished my body to the sound of The Who's Endless Wire until it played out into the jarring sound of Rage Against The Machine. I had barely noticed what I was listening to until the genre change forced me to recognize my surroundings. Based on how the body feels, it was a good workout. But I was somewhere else during the whole thing.

We got home and had a nice healthy dinner of chicken and steamed vegetables. I was a little unresponsive at times and Mary asked me if my day went like I'd planned. I didn't know what to say. Was I down because I didn't find any "fun" stuff to buy? That scares me because I never want to think of material things as medicine or emotional bandages. I like my stuff, but I'd like to imagine that I could live without shiny new things from time to time.

Having found the right shoes, I chalked up the day as somewhat of a success. But all in all, I felt like I hadn't really done anything. I can have a day when I do nothing, realize it, and be cool with it. But today, I felt like it was a day swirling with missed opportunities; like visiting more with Chris, opening my mind more to something outside of my cerebral fence line when it comes to music and literature, and just shaking the blues to live up the day.

Tomorrow holds promise. I can do something about it. Maybe I'll put on an old scratchy Ventures LP or watch Unforgiven again in between the job hunt and workout. Maybe I'll just roll around in the back yard with the dogs for a while. Or, I could get to work on that mental checklist so that I'm a little more prepared for days like today when I've got thousands of CDs and books at my disposal and walk around like a zombie.

God knows days like these don't come around that often. I just wish he would have said something today.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Shaddup, Shaddup, Shaddup!!!

Feet up on the ottoman, laptop perched upon the new padded lap desk I got this past Christmas (thanks, Sue), and a cold beer on the end table. I figured that I'd surf a bit and maybe even get some writing done. Normally, I'd put on some music, but for some reason this time I just put on the T.V., possibly to catch up on things after an excellent week on the California coast and Sideways wine country.

I flipped a bit and decided upon Fox News' Hannity and Colmes, if only because they had on a gaggle of talking heads about the recently found kidnapped boys from the creepy pizza parlour manager. I ventured out into cyberspace to check my old favorite haunts (mostly geeky music stuff) and found myself looking up to see a teaser banner going into commercial about child actress Dakota Fanning involved in a rape scene in an upcoming film. Oooh, this should be juicy, I thought. I was a fool to believe that any discussion of this would be civil.

I kept darting about on the web while looking up occasionally to see if the Fanning thing had come up yet. I kept hearing what sounded like the din at a typical mall food court. Too many fucking people talking at one time. I paused at the keyboard once to look at a four way split screen with the quartet of hosts and "experts" all blathering away in a cacophonous racket that made no sense to anyone for about a minute and a half. It was the talk show equivalent to pro wrestling.

Finally, the Dakota Fanning story came up. Hannity and Colmes had on someone from a Christian film panel (blah blah blah) and a UCLA film professor (yak, yak, yak). So, it seems that little miss Fanning has appeared in a film in which her character is raped, not implicitly, but onscreen. This truly has a shocking value, but the details are sketchy. My first thought was that this will be an issue far before anyone has actually seen the film and I was so right that I wanted to high five myself.

Hannity asked a question of the Christian Whatever Group For Family Whatever and this guy got a few seconds to make an admittedly good point about the possible dangers of a depiction of pedophilia. I listened and could not disagree at all with his first salvo. Then, Hannity changes his tone and angles his question to the UCLA guy like a spear to a fish in shallow water. The Prof listens and starts to answer when he's interrupted four words in, not by his "opponent", but by Hannity. I was so fucking pissed that I yelled at the box of wires and tubes, forgetting that my wife was asleep down the hall.

"Shut up, fucker! Shut Up!!! Let him fucking answer the question! Motherfucker. He's not even letting this guy answer the goddamned question. Oh, you fucking bastard." I collected myself and sucked air through my teeth wondering if I'd woken the little woman. No stirring sounds from the bedroom, so I turned back to the fray on the screen.

Now the UCLA guy had gotten a couple more questions thrown his way worded like "So, you're in full support of child porn?" and "What you're saying is, that the depiction of a child being raped can possibly be considered art?". Nice, level playing field that Hannity gives his guests. The Christian Family Values For Americans That Believe In God In Heaven guy got open ended questions like, "What do you make of all this?" and "Does this seem like something that Americans need to see?".

My favorite part was when the UCLA guy asked the Holy Americans For What God Told Us To Watch On T.V. guy if he'd actually seen the movie. (To be fair, it's not out yet and I don't know when it's coming out, but if the news has been leaked, I imagine there are screening versions out there for review). The Divine Patriots Of Godly Movie Censors guy made every move in his repertoire to not answer one simple question.

I'm going to take a thousand liberties with this recreation of the exchange.

UCLA guy: Answer me this, did you actually see the movie?

Godly McChristian: What is important here is that we have to be concerned....

"Did you see the movie?"

"The fact that the scene is depicted on screen......."

"But have you seen the movie? Or the scene for that matter?"

"What we have to focus on here......"

"Sir, have you seen the movie?"

"What America should be concerned with is the value system that is failing us now...."

"That's fine. What I want to know is, have you or has anyone from your organization seen the movie?"

"I think what is important is that we as a nation....."

"Have you seen the movie? It's a one word answer"


"Well, I'll say this. I personally have not seen the movie, but...."

"There you go. Now can we discuss this from the same perspective. No one talking here has actually seen the movie, but we can talk about the possible ramifications of a child rape scene in a movie in what must actually be a hypothetical sense because it doesn't exist yet on the cultural horizon."

Hannity then pops off with some shot at UCLA guy yet again with the "so I guess child porn sits okay with you?" and sends all of us into a commercial break and another blathering yell-fest about Iraq or Hillary or whatever. I used to listen to Colmes' radio show before the station he was on here went under and what I want to know is, who castrated him? I didn't even know he was on the show until he teased a segment on Obama and Hillary. I want his job; come into work, have make-up put on, get into a suit that you didn't pay for, ask Hannity what tonight's show is about, and basically hang around like a seagull for your opportunity to get a few words in before being shooed away. I would love that. And, he gets his name on the show without actually doing anything. Nice work if you can get it.

I felt unclean after watching that mess. I've seen plenty of it before and usually turn it off a few seconds in. What passes for discourse on television today was derided just a half generation ago as trite daytime talk show hairpulling and chair throwing. Somewhere, years from now, our mindless descendants will erect a statue of Morton Downey Jr. on the Mall in Washington next to Geraldo's, which they paved the Reflecting Pool to build.

Honestly, it turns me off so much that I now see the rantings of sports fans calling in on Monday morning sports talk shows as being rational and concise. No wonder that I watch America's Funniest Home Video reruns instead of this garbage. I used to think that I was polluting my mind and wasting my time by watching TV Land airings of Cheers and The Andy Griffith Show, but now I realize that my conscience rests easier when I laugh at characters written for television than when I laugh at those without character appearing on television.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Last Hurrah By The Sea

Next week at this time, I'll most likely be leaning on the rail of my room's deck, just having seen the sunset over Morro Rock, pulling on a Cohiba and sipping a glass of port. I'll be able to flick my ash on the gangplanks to a number of commercial and recreational vessels without effort. The patrons of the neighboring restaurant who've paid dearly for their view will wonder if I'm on my own deck or if I've doled out a sucker's dollar to take my stance against the darkness that falls on the Western Shore. They'll be wrong on both counts. For I will be claiming Unit B of Grey's Inn as my own. It's likely that their dinner bill came close to a night's stay at this funky old place and I did not pay ten bucks more than the maroons up the street that have to see the water through power lines, trees, and rooftops.

I'll battle with the glitter-sized tobacco bits that stubbornly march their way to the back of my tongue so that I have to rake them forward with my Upper Central Incisors, just to spit them into the Pacific Ocean's rocky shore. I'll give the seagulls as many crackers as they want, so long as we keep certain Poop Treaty clauses in effect;

Law 1, clause 7: at no time will said poop land upon the givers of bread-based sustenance, especially in their hair.

Law 2, clause 9: in the spirit of the aforementioned treaty between humans and flight-gifted shit-rainers, efforts will be made to avoid deck furniture and open containers of alcohol.

The breezes from the bay will chill me to the bone, but I will be warmer than I'd be at home in Fresno's brown haze during the day and misty fog at night. Odds are good that I'll have sunshine at some time each day, but I don't even care if it rains.

A round or two of golf over in Los Osos will sandwich a day of CD shopping in San Luis Obispo's awesome record stores. I usually experience a little serendipity at least once in Boo Boo's and while Cheap Thrills takes a little more patience because of the huge selection, the payoff is usually worth the grief from Mary for taking so much of our trip flipping through musty old records and CDs. Usually a round or two of craft brew from Downtown Brewery or maybe a tall draft of Firestone before shopping keeps her from looking at her watch every few minutes as I frantically scan thousands of CD spines, looking for familiar or interesting bands at rock bottom prices. Maybe this time over, I'll take her wine tasting first. Who could rush a music geek in paradise with a nice and warm glow from dozens of tiny glasses of wine?

We'll probably catch the BCS game Monday night at Legend's, our favorite haunt in downtown Morro Bay, walking distance from the hotel (and anywhere else we need to be). It's a really cool local bar and once Mary found the last drops of a very limited production of Jameson's Irish Whiskey that really rung her bell and she hasn't been able to find a place anywhere else in the world that has even heard of it. Talk about serendipity. The bartender that we usually see reminds me strongly of the late John Entwhistle and I always punch up some Who on the jukebox in his honor, a little inside joke for Mary and me.

When we return to the real world after a few days of slow life on the coast, it will be a new pace for me as I actively looking for work for the first time since I quit last June. I'm anxious to say the least, but I'm excited at the wide open prospect of not even having the slightest idea of what I'll be doing for a living. Months from now, when my new job is not so new anymore, I'll look back to this time and smile, remembering what it felt like to be on the brink of the complete unknown. I'll also probably wonder if I thought I'd ever be doing "this" for a living, whatever "this" is.

But for now, I look forward to that cigar and port. Oh, who am I trying to kid? It'll be a bottle of Firestone Double Barrel Ale. Port! Sheesh....

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

C'mon 2007!

Man, am I ready for a new year. I'm not into numerology, but something tells me that 2006 and all of it's mathematical matches makes up for every unlucky number for me.

I quit my job, my mother had two very invasive surgeries, and then I faced what I thought was possible death or at least certain major injury when some airheaded waste of flesh ran a red light and T-boned me.

Quitting my job will turn out to be the best thing I ever did in my life, of that I am convinced. So, even as dramatic a turn that was for this stable soul, I am sure that everything will be alright. My mother endured a very intense first surgery in July that ultimately resulted in remarkable success, even to the subdued surprise of the surgeons themselves. If that weren't enough, it was to be the easiest of the two surgeries, so we as a family went into the second expecting disappointment. But again, miraculous results, so everything's good there. My accident (or perhaps more accurately described as "her accident"), while resulting in the total loss of a nice and dependable truck, provided me with very little pain and the slack-jawed gaze of those who have seen the photos of the involved vehicles.

All things considered, I can't complain. But then again.........

I have to sometimes stop and take a look back and just say, "damn".

God and I have talked about this. Well, I've talked. So far, He just listens, but that's good enough for me. For now. I can wait to see the promised land for answers. I'm in no hurry, seeing as if I someday get my halo and that condo on a cloud, I'll have blessed eternity to be filled in on the whys and how comes. Oh, and I'll get to see Hendrix jam with Coltrane and Mozart or maybe Stevie Ray Vaughan strum along with an anonymous lute player from the 1700s with Buddy Rich on drums. Like I said, I can wait, but I'm still curious.

All that aside, most of those close to me have understood that I've been a little "grinchy" this holiday season. I usually get into it to some degree, although I've tired of the perfunctory exercises in the last few years. Lights, tree, action. Yawn.

But I do normally enjoy certain routines of the season; walks in the neighborhood on foggy nights that give the Christmas lights a hazy glow through the mist. A "Merry Christmas" instead of a "thank you" from an elderly woman for whom I've held a door. A hug instead of a handshake from an old friend. I could go on, but it might defeat my grinchy point.

This season, I took my mother up to Santa Rosa to see a live show full of holiday music (and classic American standards) performed by her oldest friend's daughter, Elizabeth Pickard. I wouldn't mention her name except to have the four (or perhaps on a busy and bizarre Google day, seven) people that check in on this little blog commit it to memory so as not to miss out on being "in the know" when Beth's on some PBS show that folks talk about just to seem snooty enough even though they haven't donated any funds to support the programs they don't actually watch.

Man, that was kind of a long sentence and one in bad need of some sort of punctuation fairy. Sorry 'bout that. I try to keep this quick and easy so I can someday publish a "bathroom reader" edition of my writings. I love the so called "portable" collections of writings; Thoreau, Twain, Royko, even Rollins. I would call my first collected volume, "The Flushable Tony". Keep those Amazon accounts currents, faithful readers.

Anyway, back to the holiday show. Beth (yeah, I knew her in the familiar "Beth") was joined by her father in this presentation in a duet format, with a few solos sprinkled throughout. Holiday classics came to life for me and lit my little black heart. I actually got chills from time to time when certain notes were reached and I occasionally looked over my shoulder to make sure that I wasn't the only one grinning like Billy Bob Thornton in Slingblade.

Beth is an astounding singer, but every time I've seen her perform, it's been in a genre that wouldn't be my first choice on a menu on a given night. Those of you that know me realize that my first love is rock and roll, served heavy, with a little blues on the side. I'll take an appetizer of jazz from time to time with no argument (especially of the late '50s to mid '70s vintage), and a sprig of pre-70's country western makes for a nice accroutmeant. But then again, venturing off of the ol' familiar menu is good for the cultural palate, and this night caught me off guard.

I'd heard Beth sing from time to time at casual family and friends' gatherings and was duly impressed, but it wasn't until I caught Elizabeth Pickard live couple of years ago at the Empire Plush Room at the York Hotel in San Francisco that I realized the talent I'd rubbed elbows with. Go here to see the parade of Tony Award (not affiliated with Tony's Hazy Concert Memories) winners that regularly play this up-close-and-personal venue. On that night, even among three other very talented ladies, Beth had my eyebrows a full inch and a half above their normal perch.

That night in San Francisco, I was also pulled under the surface and into the supressed memories of my aural past. As the ladies moved into tunes that should have had me shrugging or even wincing, I actually found myself tapping my feet and bobbing my head in a most minimalist's manner, not wanting to acknowledge the fact the I was at all familiar with the songs. My curse was that while I was baptized in rock and roll, it seemed that my musical bloodline was a bit more confused. I strongly remember listening to Creedence, The Mamas and The Papas, and other late sixties and early seventies artists related to rock. But, in some sort of subliminal and perhaps a somewhat demonic manner, I was doused with the arsenic of Rogers and Hammerstein. I may have been able to suppress that memory, but coupled with the bamboo-under-fingernail Striesand drubbings, I was simply now a soldier in the "someday army" that would forever try to coerce those sporting mullets or hightop Reeboks that Guys and Dolls is a great fucking story with two characters that would make for uber cool metal band names (Nathan Detroit or Sky Masterson----I know, how cool would those be? Embrace your inner metal being, people!).

Back to Christmas of recent past. Beth's father Larry was striking in his suit as he strode along in what I guessed were much practiced steps in front of a mirror. He was visibly nervous but gave off a performer's confidence that, at least for this casual observer, spackled in the holes enough that the subtle touched up nuances of color almost instantly erased any missteps. Larry's casual acknowledgments of missed cues or forgotten lyrics with a smile accompanied by a severely sucked in breath brought us all into the moment and gave everyone an insider's feel to the performance. Looking a bit like a nattily attired and even more charming Kevin Spacey, albeit with more hair, he commanded the floor when it was appropriate and stepped into the shadows when his daughter stunned us with her solos.

To be perfectly honest, I made the trip out of convenience. When I first heard about the performance, my wife and I both planned on attending, but when we mistakenly thought that it would conflict with a birthday celebration for Mary's father, we begged off. Upon the realization that it was a Sunday evening gig, I was back in the fold. I can't begin or pretend to try to describe how glad I am that I was fortunate enough to be there that night.

I found myself further connecting as an adult with my mother's best and most long term friend Barbara (notice the author's avoidance of the phrase "oldest friend" that was used above). She is a wonderfully vibrant woman that defies her time on this globe both to the eye and one's intuition. And while her son, Justin, and I have been pleasantly familiar since childhood, during this short visit, I didn't see him as the kid I knew vaguely during my own childhood, but as a man that carries himself not only with dignity and self worth but also a humility that makes him ultimately approachable and real. It was also a treat to get to know Barbara's husband Brad a little better, man to man. From wine to beer, cigars to whiskey, and points that cover all corners of the Men's Discussion Blueprint and beyond, I found Brad to be easy to talk to without what could have been an awkward struggle to make smalltalk.

After the performance that night, my mother and I gave the players our regards. Beth got hugs from both of us and then we made our way over to Larry to congratulate him on a fine performance as well. While my mom was talking to him, I was trying to whip up something better than "great show" or "you guys were great". A hearty handshake between us had me explaining to Larry that I'd been feeling quite the grinch this season, but his and Beth's performance had me seeing things a bit differently. It came out so naturally that I surprised myself because anything I'd thought of up until that moment seemed contrived or rehearsed. Larry seemed to appreciate my sentiment and for that I was glad.

Retreating to Beth's condo after the show for a champagne toast and a round or two of cocktails cemented the good holiday vibes for me. Good conversation with healthy doses of laughter took us all up until it was time to retire for the evening. My mom and I drove back to our hotel raving not only about the show, but about the interpersonal connections we felt that night. We stopped at the gas station across from our hotel to get her a soda and me a Tall Boy Coors Light. Back in the room, as she watched the local news, I flipped through the free rags that I'd picked up in the lobby; God loves the whore that has to sell the advertising to float these colorful but sadly glorified throwaway tourist pamphlets. I drifted off to sleep with visions of Napa Valley golf courses and blues shows at the Luther Burbank Center For The Performing Arts.

The next day, we met Brad and Barbara for breakfast at a great place called Omelette Express in Santa Rosa. So what did I have? Bacon and eggs. I'm such a rebel, I know. After some good hot coffee on what was one of the region's coldest mornings of recent memory, Brad presented me with a cigar that he and Justin enjoy and a glass tube with some sort of gel that helps to keep your cigars moist and fresh. What a nice gesture, I thought. He also bought breakfast in order to display the fact that they were appreciative of the trip we made to see the show. Furthermore, Barbara gave my mom some audio books that she'd downloaded as we said our goodbyes out at the cars. An embarrassment of riches after such a wonderful weekend.

We exchanged contact info and my mom and I headed home. We both had a warm feeling in our hearts. My mom is always glad to spend time with her chum, and I was glad to get to know Brad and Justin a little better and on a different level.

It's funny; hearing some of those old Christmas standards on a store's Muzak system as I did my last minute Christmas shopping or on the soundtrack to some cheesy T.V. special had me thinking of Beth and Larry's version. I'll take that as a good thing.

This past weekend, Mary and I attended an annual dinner party thrown by friends and that also boosted my spirits for the season. Of course, Christmas day at my parents' was nice, so all in all, this Scrooge survived a potentially down season without a scratch.

Today is December 26th. I took down the tree and all the other signifiers of Christmas. The lights on the house will be down by noon tomorrow. As much as it turned out to be okay, it is over. I just helped it out the door a little early. I'll be happy to celebrate any holiday you want to throw at me in '07 (Groundhog's Day, Secretary's Day, Flag Day, even Boxing Day and I'll read up on Kwaanza too) if it means that there will be a job, no surgeries, and no Astro Vans ramming me in the driver's side door at 40mph.

Happy New Year, indeed.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Handbasket or Bucket?

A quick one while I'm away..........

Recently, I had the pleasure of hanging out with some great friends that I see far too little of. I feel close to these guys and I know that we could really connect further if the constraints of time would allow. One of these guys is Lefty Brown. You know, the guy whose blog you can link to over on Tony's Hazy Concert Memories.

Anyway, I had just gotten through telling the details of a conundrum I recently found myself dealing with being unemployed. Lefty flattered me with this:

"Tony, of all the people that I positively know for sure are going to hell, you are the most ethical".

I rather like that.

I really don't know why. I guess it's something to hang your hat on at the very least. Kind of like being the best player on the last place team or the only guy in the chess club that's kissed a girl that wasn't your aunt. It's something.