Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fun Fun Fun? A Night at a Beach Boys Concert
What makes a band -- the music? The singers? The musicians? Sometimes that is a difficult question to answer since the nature of most things in life is that change happens over time.

Tonight I went to see the Beach Boys in concert. Well ... it is sort of the Beach Boys, or at least the members who have rights to the name. The ultra-short version of the story: Carl Wilson -- passed away; Dennis Wilson -- passed away; Brian Wilson -- not with the band, voice destroyed many years ago; Al Jardine -- not with the band. The band currently consists of lead singer Mike Love, versatile musician and singer Bruce Johnston, and other singers/musicians. Could these two Beach Boys really make the experience the same as a Beach Boys concert of old?

I prepped for the concert by re-watching The Beach Boys: An American Family, a 2000 television film, and Good Timin: Live at Knebworth England 1980. I was ready. Third row seat. Yowsa!

The concert was a short ride away -- at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, IL. Never having attended a concert there before, I went a little early to spot out a free parking spot on the street. No problem.

If you've read this blog before, you probably know that my 21st birthday was not exactly recent history. Yet, believe it or not, I was in the minority -- one of the younger people in the crowd! I use the term "crowd" loosely. I was surprised there weren't more people at the concert. Oh yeah -- it was nice to see that the prices of Beach Boys apparel was hiked up $5-$10 at the concert. Nice.

The concert began and it was ... boring. There was a complete lack of energy on stage and in the hall. They played several of their early surf songs and car songs, and they all sounded flat. Also, it is pretty ridiculous to hear a 69 year old guy singing about surfer girls and being true to your school. They played for an hour and then had a 25-minute intermission. The songs in the first hour that sounded best were covers: So Young and Why do Fools Fall in Love. The low point for me came when they played Darlin'. Although drummer John Cowsill made a valiant effort on the vocals, I choked up thinking about how great the song was when Carl Wilson sang it -- and the realization that with Carl dead, there Beach Boys really were gone for good. I knew it, but I never really felt it inside until tonight.

The concert did pick up in the second hour. Good Vibrations, California Girls, and Wouldn't It Be Nice were sung with great harmonizing and energy, but it sure would have been nice to have Al Jardine's vocals in the mix. Other songs like Sloop John B, Barbara Ann, and Rock and Roll Music were okay. The group sounded much better in the second hour, but it just wasn't the Beach Boys. And it never will be.

There has been talk of a Beach Boys 50th reunion, but with Carl and Dennis Wilson dead and Brian Wilson no longer having his smooth voice, a reunion would be nice, but ...

After the concert, like any good former Redbird, I stopped on the ISU campus and grabbed some gondolas at Avanti's for the family. At least the gondolas remain great.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quickie Post

1) I felt like crap today at work and took the afternoon off. Amazing what a little comfort food (a Whopper from Burger King and fries from a local sandwich shop) and some sleep will do. I was pretty worthless most of the day.

2) I took a second look at a used 2000 Toyota Solara to buy for my son to drive to school and (hopefully soon) work. The Solara gets kick ass reviews from almost everyone who has owned one. I was really hoping to get a 2000 Mazda Protege, but the woman who is supposed to be selling has not been a good communicator with me.

3) Poker has been boring. I few final tables in some private events, but I end up getting kicked in the junk by Full Tilt one way or another. Same kind of thing thing at the cash tables lately.

4) Good weekend coming up: Saturday night -- home game with softball/poker buddies. Sunday night -- Beach Boys concert. I have heard that this latest version of the Beach Boys with Mike Love and Bruce Johnston is good in concert. I last saw the Beach Boys in concert when Carl Wilson was still alive and Al Jardine was still in the band. It was long time ago.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Famous Sites in Popular Music -- Part One
Dan Fogelberg: Same Old Lang Syne

My first in a series of posts about famous sites in popular music will focus on a local guy, Dan Fogelberg. Fogelberg grew up in central Illinois, attending high school in Peoria and college at the University of Illinois. He hit his peak of popularity from the mid 1970's to the early 1980's with his smooth voice and tender ballads. His monster hit Longer was a staple at weddings and proms for many years.

However, one of his most treasured and touching songs was his story of a random meeting with a former girlfriend on Christmas Eve 1975 -- Same Old Lang Syne. The song began:

Met my old lover in the grocery store
The snow was falling Christmas Eve
I stole behind her in the frozen foods
And I touched her on the sleeve

She didn't recognize the face at first
But then her eyes flew open wide
She went to hug me and she spilled her purse
And we laughed until we cried

We took her groceries to the checkout stand
The food was totalled up and bagged
We stood there lost in our embarrassment
As the conversation dragged

We went to have ourselves a drink or two
But couldn't find an open bar
We bought a six-pack at the liquor store
And we drank it in her car

The stores mentioned were not actually a grocery store and a liquor store, but one store -- a local Convenient store. Artists can take some liberty with the facts, right?

For years I had wondered where the store was and had wanted to see it myself. I finally did so this past June, stopping in Peoria, IL on my way back home from another famous music site which will be the subject of my second post in this series.

The store as it looks today:

If you were a Fogelberg fan and remember the song, you will probably love to read the whole story of the chance Christmas Eve meeting. If you are a real trivia junkie like me, you'll probably want to know the name of the guy who sold Fogelberg the beer and the brand of beer he bought.

Sadly, Dan Fogelberg died of prostate cancer In December, 2007. The street adjacent to the store was renamed Fogelberg Parkway in honor of the contributions of the Fogelberg family (including Dan's father, the "Leader of the Band").

A memorial to Dan Fogelberg is being dedicated on August 28, 2010 in his home town, Peoria.

Same Old Lang Syne

Met my old lover in the grocery store
The snow was falling Christmas Eve
I stole behind her in the frozen foods
And I touched her on the sleeve

She didn't recognize the face at first
But then her eyes flew open wide
She went to hug me and she spilled her purse
And we laughed until we cried

We took her groceries to the checkout stand
The food was totalled up and bagged
We stood there lost in our embarrassment
As the conversation dragged

We went to have ourselves a drink or two
But couldn't find an open bar
We bought a six-pack at the liquor store
And we drank it in her car

We drank a toast to innocence, we drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness but neither one knew how

She said she'd married her an architect
Who kept her warm and safe and dry
She would have liked to say she loved the man
But she didn't like to lie

I said the years had been a friend to her
And that her eyes were still as blue
But in those eyes I wasn't sure if I saw doubt or gratitude
She said she saw me in the record stores
And that I must be doing well
I said the audience was heavenly but the traveling was hell

We drank a toast to innocence, we drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness but neither one knew how
We drank a toast to innocence, we drank a toast to time
Reliving in our eloquence, another 'auld lang syne'

The beer was empty and our tongues were tired
And running out of things to say
She gave a kiss to me as I got out and I watched her drive away
Just for a moment I was back at school
And felt that old familiar pain
And as I turned to make my way back home
The snow turned in to rain...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bowling Night With Dad

The plan was quite simple, actually. My friend Bob had done it many times.

"Ask your dad if you can go with him to his bowling league tonight. The guys all buy me snacks and soda." It sounded like a good plan. My dad bowled every Friday night in a league with guys from church. They would all be drinking, and anyone's son would stand to profit from their drunken generousity.

I went and it was pretty much like Bob said. Outside of the sugar high, however, there were someother interesting things to experience. One guy recently had a stroke and was determined that it would not stop him from bowling. He staggered up to the lane and was forced to throw the ball while standing upright. But dammit, he did it. Anothet guy had a five-fingered bowling ball, which I had never seen before. He put four fingers and a thumb in the ball and layed it down with the most wicked spin. I had never seen a bowling ball curve so much.

My dad was a funny guy to watch when bowling. As he approached the lane, he carefully used the arrows to set his steps. He brought the ball up to his face and then down to his chest while crouching and sticking his butt out. It was a pretty comical sight.

The amazing part, however, was seeing my dad in a different environment -- out having fun with the guys -- smoking, drinking, discussing the game, high-fiving after each frame ... He was far from stoic at home, but never seemed to have the kind of fun he did when he was out with the guys on bowling night. And it was cool to watch.

As you might have guessed, this night out was not recent. In fact, it was about 40 years ago. Things change. My friend Bob died tragically in a night time house fire while he was attending Eastern Illinois University. Sadly, I had mononucleosis at the time and was unable to travel to the funeral. Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of my dad's death. The date had almost passed me by when a hacked e-mail account caused me to phone my brother, who reminded me.

It's funny, the old obscure stuff you think of sometimes. Memories like these are priceless.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

To Mosque or Not to Mosque: Political Crapola in America

We should all know the background: mosque organizers wish to build a mosque and community center two blocks away from ground zero in New York. Sounds simple, doesn't it? However, it is interesting to see the roles that the democrats/liberals and republicans/conservatives have taken on this issue.

Extremist democrats and liberals, the usual caretakers of sensitivity and respect for people (but keeping religion out of things -- right?) are championing the religious freedom of our heritage. Strange, isn't it, that the group that is IMO the biggest threat to free speech in the U.S. is now suddenly concerned with the rights of a religious group?

Extremist republicans and conservatives, the usual caretakers of freedom of speech and other rights (and infusing religion into things -- right?) are now the ones concerned about sensitivity and the affect this will have on people. This group is now touchy-feely and concerned with people as opposed to rights?

Of course, I have made broad simplifications here of which I am sure people on both sides of the political spectrum could take issue. I an not naive to some of the the underlying issues and politics here. It is no secret that politically I am to the right of center. My view is that the extremists are the cause of many of the country's problems. One nation, two completely different ways of viewing the world. The more things can be closer to the center, the more that might actually get accomplished. We are nowhere near that. We are a divided country in the middle of terrible problems. Unfortunately, our politicians can't work together to get us out of these messes.

But what about the mosque? Is is too hard to see the viewpoint that building it that close to ground zero seems offensive? It may not make sense to some that it would be offensive, but offensive things don't always have to follow perfect logic. They are ofttimes built on feelings.

On the other hand, what about our religious freedom for which we thump our collective chests? Shouldn't that freedom reign supreme despite the sensitivity of others?

The best opinion I have seen about this is by syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. He has said much of what I would like to in a more intelligent way. Of course, people have already begun their bashing of his piece.

The answer to this dilemma, to me, seems to be: yes, the organizers have the right to build the mosque and community center there, but out of respect they should not. Build it somewhere else. This religious building will become a structure that breeds hate. We already have too much hate in this country and in our world.

So there it is. Any extremist liberals out there who think I am a bigot are welcome to do so. It is what they do when they can't fathom why someone would think differently than them. And any extremist conservatives out there who would see me as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) -- whatever. I have been called that before when I sought reasonable solutions to modern problems.

Time for me to get back to more local issues. Will Blago walk free? Will Illinois go broke? Geez -- now I am depressed ...
Warning -- Poker Content
Last night was a fun night -- traveling 100+ miles to a home game. Ever since my home game evaporated I have been wistfully thinking about how nice it would be to have it back. The next best thing, however, is going to someone else's home game. So, when I got an invitation to gadzook64's home game -- and had my wife out of town for the weekend -- it looked like it was road trip time!

I had been feeling a little under the weather yesterday -- a combination of fatigue from the busy time of the year at work and either some bad food or some 24-hour bug. Therefore, my day consisted of sleep, food, and poker. I guess life could be worse.

I had played in gazdook's home game once before. I was surprised that she remembered that I lost most of my chips when my flopped top-top with A-K got counterfeited when A-J binked a Jack on the turn.

What I got for my 200+ mile round trip? Over 4 1/2 hours of solid poker in a great environment. The players were pretty solid and are a friendly bunch. Although I did flop a straight and a nut flush, the best starting hand I got was 10-10. Unfortunately, I went out two people short of the money when, with huge blinds, I shoved with A-5os in the big blind and was called by gadzooks, who had called in the small blind with Q-8sooted. She caught an 8 on the flop and that was enough to felt me.

Yeah -- driving 100 miles home starting at midnight kind of sucked, but I had a great time. Thanks, Sheila!

Tournament Action
I had been playing some $.50/$1 NL at Full Tilt recently and hit a pretty good streak of success. Of course, then it was time for Full Tilt to turn on me, and boom -- the money dwindled away. I find it amazing how many times the perfect card comes on the river, making you think you are a winner, but completing a gutshot or a flush draw for your opponent.

As for tournaments, I have been using my supreme roaching talent to cash in some blogger tournaments and freerolls. No big deals about any of them -- just some low limit tournament fun times.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Van
The van needed some work. Not just for one problem, mind you, but a few little issues and one major concern. I made an appointment with a local trusted mechanic, but couldn't get the van in for almost two weeks. Instead, we decided to just go to the local dealership where we had had many problems fixed in the past. I get the call from my wife. The news is not good:

1) Radiator has a leak. Estimate to fix: $680
2) Power doors do not work. Estimate to fix: $500
3) Backup lights -- were not working but now are. $0
4) Power window not working. Estimate to fix: $320
Yeah -- that is $1500, which doesn't even count the backup lights which now seem to work but may need to be fixed in the future. I wasn't wanting to fork over $1500, so we told them we would just get the van back and think about it. My plan: keep the appointment with the trusted mechanic and see what that shop says.
I go to pick up the van and pay the bill. I notice:
1) All door locks except one are now working
2) Power window is now working
3) And, of course, the backup lights are now working
Total cost: $92
I'll let the local mechanic give us an estimate on the radiator.
The Mustang
My son had just gotten his drivers license last week. I flipped him the keys to my Mustang so that he could drive it home from the dealership while I paid for the van diagnostics. We gave him directions home since he just started driving and was unfamiliar with the local roads. The route home was made easy: left on Prospect Ave, right on Springfield Ave, left on Staley Road.
As I drove home, the phone calls began.
son: "Dad, I think I drove past Springfield."
lightning: "What road are you on?"
son: "Prospect."
lightning: "Go to the next major road and turn right."
son: "Dad, I don't know where I am."
lightning: "What road are you on?"
son: "Willow."
lightning: "I don't know where Willow is."
son: "Dad, the car has a flat tire?"
lightning: "What did you do?"
son: "Dad, I think I wrecked the car."
Just another tricky day ...

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

You'd better watch out, Josie ...

This guy is gunning for you tonight!

And he's bringing along his ENFORCER...

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Come Along with Me to Church ...
I was making a solo trip to church this evening (yes -- I am a good ol' Catholic guy) and knew that my mind would be wandering. It's not that I didn't care about what was going on, but I just was in an introspective mood. So what does a guy think about in church? Come along with me and find out ...

1) A guy sitting to my left kept falling asleep during the homily (a reflection on the day's readings). My wife usually wakes me up before I start snoring on those days when I am tired. Anyway, I thought back to when I was in high school and was working mega hours at McDonald's. I would come to church after work, smelling of cooked hamburgers and onions. Once I dozed off and woke up, only to see some little kid in front of me staring right at me. I didn't know if he was amused or had gotten the munchies from my smell.

2) Saw a lady with long blonde hair. She reminded me of a lady in church who laughed when my son, at a tender age, accidentally slammed his head really hard against the pew. It was loud and it really hurt. You should have heard him cry. Yet, this lady behind us was laughing. I'll bet she had a collection of leather restraints and whips at her house.

3) I was reminded of a night ten years ago when the church was going to begin a new sex ed program in the schools and religious ed classes and wanted a parent from each family to attend an evening meeting in the church. I went with my friend, Tony. Most families had their mother there and we were definitely in the minority. Tony and I played a little game -- how many of these milf-ish women would we have sex with? We wondered -- did discussing this in church intensify the sin? Were we in need of the sex ed class?

4) Today's first reading included a section on vanity -- Ecclesiastes, Chapter 2, Verses 22-23: "For what profit comes to a man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun? All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; even at night his mind is not at rest. This also is vanity."

It reminded me of the time when I was head of my department at work. I was so driven to have my department be as perfect as possible (talk about vanity!) that I worked endless hours, almost screwed up my marriage (those who know me know that Mrs. lightning must be one tolerent wife!), and lived with massive anxiety almost every day. Never again, I learned. Life is too short.

5) Oh yeah -- I remembered that we have a few members of our blogger society who have been going through some intense personal hardships with family members who have medical issues. Yes -- church: what better place to say a few extra prayers? Task completed -- heartfelt prayers sent via express.

There were other thoughts, of course, but I think you've heard too much already. I sometimes wonder if I have an undiagnosed case of ADHD. I'll try to think about this tonight ... lol.
Singing the Illinois Blues
Living in the state of Illinois these days means being faced with many unpleasant questions and realities. Among them are:

1) Is ex-governor Rod Blagojevich going to spend time behind bars, as most expect, or will the slimy weasel somehow get a jury to believe that he was just a stupid guy who was a bad judge of character? If there is one thing I hate, it is when smart people use the old stupid excuse, ala the Clintons, who were the absolute masters at this ruse. Yeah, Blago was stupid -- stupid to try to sell Obama's vacant senate seat via the telephone when he knew the feds had been tapping it. Will we now have two ex-governors in prison? Buh bye Blago -- talk your way out Bubba's love nest behind bars.

2) Who to vote for in the upcoming governor's race? For many years, I have characterized my political stance as moderate republican. I almost always lean toward the right, but have always been most fearful of the extremists, both left and right. This fall the republican candidate for governor is an extremist. Although we are deep in debt, he believes that we can get out of it by cutting the budget and not raising taxes. Now -- my kids will tell you how much of an anti-tax person I am. However, I am also a realist. Regretfully, we need more tax dollars (and prudent spending, of course) to dig us out of the hole our crooked democrat-controlled legislature put us in. So even though I blame the Illinois democrats for the financial mess we are in, I am pretty sure that I will be forced to vote for the democratic gubernatorial candidate this fall. He has been the only politician to show any cojones (he was the lieutenant governor and then moved up to governor when Blago was booted from office) in trying to get us out of our financial mess.

3) How are our schools going to survive? The state has not been paying its bills. The University of Illinois is currently owed $279 MILLION by the state. Other universities, colleges, and school districts are owed obscene amounts. Major cuts appear to be coming. Oh yeah -- did I mention that one candidate thinks that we will straighten the ship by cutting spending and not raising taxes?

4) Will guys like me who have been paying into a pension system for many years take it up the butt because our state representatives and senators, who have under-funded the state pension system for years while funding their own pork projects, will finally succeed in getting a court to let them screw with the pension money? The same politicians who have gotten us stuck in this financial quagmire want to pay for their robbery and incompetence by stealing the hard-earned (and saved) money of public school teachers and state employees. Teachers unions say it won't happen, but who would ever trust the crooked pols and their friends in this state? They always find a way to steal.

I've lived in Illinois my entire life, first in suburban Chicago and now downstate. Never have I had less faith in my state and our elected officials. It is really just sad.