Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lucy's Logic

We were watching the new Futurama movie that I bought in a fit of splurge the other day. My girls love Futurama. I know, I'm a bad parent. The subject matter is inappropriate some of the time. But what can you do? Say no? Ha! Well, I do try to rotate Futurama out every now and then. But when they get their hooks into something, I'd like to see you try to convince them that something else was a better idea. Defensive much? Yes.


We had finished watching the movie and the girls were expecting another episode, just like when we watch one of the TV DVD's. I explained to them that this was a movie and that was the only episode on the DVD. We wandered through the extras and I tried to get them to watch the special features. They didn't want to see the bloopers. The deleted scenes had "drawings" they didn't want to see (rough sketches from the story boards).

"Well, we could watch the commentary..." I offered.

"Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! I don't want to hear the actors talk!!!" screamed Lucy.

"Ok, ok!" I said, hitting the pause button.

"I don't want to hear the commentary. I don't like to listen to them...I just want to watch another new episode of Futurama!"

Alas, there are no more new episodes. Fortunately, though, there's a preview on for their next movie: Bender's Big Game, which we enjoyed. Also, there is an episode pieced together from the cut scenes of Futurama: The Game.

Man, though, what's it going to take to get this show back on the air? Shall I scream at Fox's headquarters until I get my way? It seems to work for Lucy...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Uncle Louis

Well, I'm back from STL and I'll tell you one thing: It's no NYC. But I guess I should have suspected as much. Maybe it was my high expectations, but I left there feeling duped. The Arch! The Mississippi! Louis and Clark statues! Route 66! Budweiser! And the Bowling Hall of Fame! Yes, they are all there, but they might as well be here.

I've noticed a trend recently. From Easton Town Center to Legacy Village to the Warehouse District in Cleveland, to Akron, to St. Louis: in order to spruce up the place, they've all taken a page from Disney's book and remade their downtowns in the image of a simpler time. While I appreciate the charm of an outdoor village with cute shops, it kind of all feels soulless.

I suppose it's better than boarded up shops and cracked up streets. I'm sure all these places are the victims of "best practices." The city planners have all visited each other and said, "Hey! It works for Columbus, it will work here!" It's the same mentality that got us into the War: If democracy works for us, it will work for everyone. And we all know that was a big farce. We want the fast track to oil or tourists dollars or what's left of our disposable income. We don't care to take those best practices and have them custom made for the locality. No, that would require what we call "thinking." I guess, on the positive side, we're pretty good a mass production.

Don't get me wrong; I love my country. But we keep selling ourselves short. Rather than slowing down, taking a breath and sleeping on it, we slap what looks like it will work on top of a mess and hope for the best. And we repeat it everywhere we can. How else do you explain tax abatements?

I had dinner one night at a restaurant that was supposed to make me feel like I was in NYC. I visited the "Warehouse District" and I was supposed to feel like I was in the early 20th Century. Why can't I just go somewhere and feel like I was where I was? And that was somewhere special because it represented something and not because of some Sears & Robuck style smoke and mirrors? Only the eight of an inch that remains of Route 66 in this area made me feel like I was somewhere special.

We stopped at Ted Drewes Custard stand, which was busy and thriving. It also looked like it belonged on Route 66. And unlike the other Historic Sites on Route 66 that we passed, it was open and people from this day and age were spending some time together. It was sunny, people were happy. And everyone seemed to understand this was special. My pal Jeff and I were taking pictures of each other next to the route 66 sign and Ted Drewes. Some locals offered to get us both in the shot. They asked us where we were from and recommended their favorites.

We walked up to the menu posted on the side of the ice cream stand. An older gentleman was looking up, confounded. He was trying to find the price of a Sin Sundae so that he could figure out what he owed his friend. He asked us if we knew, but we didn't. We helped him find the price and tried to figure out what we wanted too.

We ended up with small sundaes, eaten out of a plastic St. Louis Cardinals ball cap. We ate quickly. lest the ice cream melt and, besides, we were anxiouse to head west on Route 66 for some kicks. I'm sure we must have taken a wrong turn. In fact, I'm surprised we didn't end up in Dale's backyard. But, before we knew it, we beheld the Arch off in the distance. We were headed back downtown.

It was here we gave up on St. Louis. We cried "uncle" and decided to cruise the street our hotel was on, Natural Bridge Road. We eventually found ourselves at the Breakaway Cafe, which was marvelously "local." There were even locals there, enjoying their meals. I had one of the local brews, Budweiser (prounounced Bud-wyz-er) and enjoyed one of the best hambergers I've ever eaten.

We waddled back to our white Hyundai and made our way home: Just this side of the Hollywood Hustler store on Natural Bridge Road. We slid into an extra wide parking spot at the hotel and entered through the side door, welcomed by a blast of cold air, hotel cleansers and chlorine. I now know exactly how the Tydee Bowl man feels when he punches in at work.

But, hey, St. Louis is a place with all the baggage of a midwest recovering manufacuting town and all the charm of southern humidity. I realize that "Warehouse Districts" are trying to make use of old buildings, and I appreciate that. I don't like the complete new "villages" or "town centers" that wipe away clean the local mom and pop stuff. Why not give mom and pop grants to spiff up their images instead? Why not use open lots for something more organic than a place to park? Why not add some sidewalks, too. Lots of people are walking these days, just like Jesus did.

I came home from St. Louis with my eyes open. If we're not careful, the powers that be will franchise America. And that would be great, if other nations were buying it. It would fund new ideas and a Madonna-like reinvention of this old broad we call our home land. But they're not buying it...or maybe they are. And what will we do with all that cash?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I Meant To Tell You This Sooner...

I'm leaving for St. Louis, home of Chuck Berry, in about an hour. I'm off for another work related adventure. This time, I'll be travelling with my pal Jeff. We plan to visit Budweiser and the International Bowling Hall of Fame. Of course I will provide a vividly detailed account of the Bud tour over at Social Zymurgy.

If anyone is in the area and wants to meet up, just let me know! Sorry about the short notice. I am travelling to NY again in August...18-20. Let me know if you want to meet. You can ask Coaster Punchman, Beckeye, and Chris...I'm fairly normal.

Wish me luck. I've taken the seat over the wing, so if shit goes down, I'll be in charge, which is right where I want to be.

Monday, July 21, 2008


You know, I love the new blog link thing that automatically updates itself so I can tell at a glance who's been naughty and who's been nice. If you don't have it, I recommend it. It's a minor pain in the ass for great payoff. Just click Custmize at the top right of the page, add a page element, and choose Subscription Links.

It's really maximized my reduced amount of blogging time so I can spend more time writing and, most importantly, commenting. I've also been able to take up some reading. Doc, the sweetheart, bouth me a copy of David Sedaris' new book When You Are Engulfed in Flames. It's as wonderful as it sounds. He's the first person since Erma Bomback that made me snort out loud while reading one of his books. I highly recommend it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Wisdom of Riley

We were at Rooster's Restaurant last night after I took the girls to get their hair cut. Riley had spent some time counting the 19 plus TV's in the place. At one point she stopped and looked thoughtful for a moment.

"This looks like a beer bar," she said.

"Yeah, I guess so," I replied.

"Why are all these men are here watching TV and drinking beer when they could be at home having fun, you know, talking?"

"That's a question for the ages, my dear," I replied.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Uphill Battles

Comic found at Toothpaste for Dinner
Isn't it wonderful?
You know you're going to have a long day in the Training & Support Business when your first task of the day is to explain what "quarterly" means.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Dream Come True

Do you know why we're not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Because we're still ROCKIN'!

--Mike Reno, of Loverboy
July 12, 2008
Akron, Ohio

It was about 10 minutes until five at work on Friday and my co-workers were wrapping things up. I was on the late shift, which means I had to stay until six. We were all saying our good-bye's and sharing what we had planned for the weekend. Brian, our newest trainer, mentioned he was going to see Loverboy at Lock 3 in Akron.

"Oh my God, Loverboy?!?" I asked.

"Yeah, it's only five bucks to get in," he explained.

"Five bucks?!?"

"Yeah," he replied.

I immediately accessed Google and searched for the details. Lo and be hold, it was true. I immediately picked up the phone and called Betty. I quickly told her about the concert and asked her if she wanted to go and of course she did.

So yesterday, after spending a lovely afternoon putting together our new pool and splashing around in it, we dragged the kids out, got them dressed and hit the road. It spent a good ten minutes raining cats and dogs as we fretted that the rain would close the show. But the sun was shining brightly even as fat drops pounded the windshield. We kept the faith and continued north.

We found the venue without incident, parked the car for free and hiked the two blocks to Lock 3, a little park in the middle of the city at the site of the Akron Toy Company, the first American factory to mass produce toys, clay marbles in fact. I hadn't been to Akron in years and I was surprised to see how nice it is. There were people out and about, trendy bars and restaurants and the University of Akron buildings lent the area a sort of Cambridge, MA feel to the area.

We made our way to the entrance where a security guard and an Akron police officer asked, very nicely, to check our bags. The police officer was smiling and handed out police badge stickers to the girls. The entrance lead to a set of long, sloping stairs that took us down to the amphitheater and a well-kept little park. We paid our five bucks each (the kids were free!) and strolled down toward the chair rental barn.

The opening act, Super Satellite, was already well into their set as we tried to find the best place to sit. Of course, we tried front and center, about fifty feet back from the stage. However, this was too close for the kids delicate and uncalloused ear drums. So we tried a few other locations, eventually settling towards the back and on the hill.

The girls immediately made friends with a few other girls in the area and they played, dancing around the lamp post and hovering over the storm drain. At one point, Lucy and Riley laid down on the blanket we streched out and Lucy fell asleep for a while. It did begin to rain and we pulled out my umbrella and snuggled up under it. I wish I had thought to bring my camera to capture the moment when everyone seemed to open their umbrellas at the same time; it was really cool.

When Super Satellite finished their set, they said they'd be selling copies of their CD's at the merchandising booth. They were pretty good, so I thought I'd go over and get a copy, if it wasn't too expensive. I made my way over and the lead singer was just getting off his cell phone. I told him I'd like a copy of his CD and he told me it was five bucks. I only had a twenty, so he reached into his jeans pocket and struggled to come up with the change. I thought he'd offer to sign it but he didn't and so I thanked him, wished him luck and went back to our seats.

"Did he sign it?" Elizabeth asked.

"No, maybe I should go back and ask him?"

"You'll regret it if you don't," she said and of course she was right.

"I would feel stupid going back and asking for his autograph."

"Here, I'll do it," she said as she reached for the CD.

Can you see why I love her? She returned with the autograph and told me how nice he was. I tucked the CD away in my purse as our attention was turned to the MC for the night, a sixty something year old gentleman with white hair and a quirky personality.

"In just a few moments Loverboy will be coming out. They've had a lovely time in Akron. The Barley House set them up with a great meal and they are ready to rock! It looks like the rain won't get in our way tonight. There is no lightning; it's just a few showers making their way through. And like my mother used to say, if there's enough blue sky to patch a hole in a Dutchman's pants, then the weather will hold."

Elizabeth and I cracked up at this last line. Neither one of us had ever heard anything like it. He continued to chatter away and give out prizes for correctly answered trivia questions. He also explained that procedes from the entrance fees were to be donated to the Akron Children's Hospital. I thought this was wonderful. Apparently, the city footed the bill for the band.

And finally, he announced the band and my heart leapt. You see, Loverboy was the first band I was really into as a tween. MTV had just come out and Loverboy was one of the first to have their videos shown. I had fallen in love with Mike Reno, the dynamic frontman. I remember that one summer my friend Tami and I had spent with MTV on in the background. We would play cards or draw with one ear waiting for the first few notes of Turn Me Loose to emit from the TV so that we could stop whatever we were doing and soak it up.

I can remember sitting in front of her sister's turntable with the lyrics in front of us, singing along to all their songs, staring at Reno's dreamy visage. At the roller rink, we'd skate the hardest when Loverboy was played. We had our Members Only jackets, we had our Loverboy buttons and we had our red bandana head bands. We dreamed of the day when one day, she would marry the bass player, Scott Smith and I would Marry Mike Reno and we would travel the world, rockin'.

Of course, that never happened. I never even got to see him in concert when he toured with another favorite of mine, Joan Jett. But Elizabeth did. She begged her mother for two days until she relented.

So there I was, Loverboy was hitting the stage and I was about to see if they were all they were cracked up to be and not just studio magic.

"I have to go to the bathroom," Riley said as the first strands of Notorious started to play.

"Of course you do," I said, ruefully.

We rushed to the bathrooms and I impatiently goaded her and Lucy to hurry up. After filling up at the drinking fountain, we went back outside to hear the end of Get Lucky playing. It was amazing. I'm not even sure where to start to explain the experience.

I guess I could start with the bands high level of musicianship. During one of the numbers, the went into an extended jam and played with the melody lines, at one point playing a Doors song (Elizabeth can help me out here with the details). It was intricate and willowy and I started to see that they were more than their corporate rock image.

And what can I say about Mike Reno's voice other than that it's a gift. It's a pure tenor and can be set beside the likes of Ian Gillan and Robert Plant. At one point during the show, I turned to Elizabeth and said, "He could totally play Jesus!" That would be in Jesus Christ Superstar of course, which Elizabeth and I are continually trying to recast. I listed in awe, my twelve year old heart reawakened. I remembered exactly why I loved Mike Reno.

Mike told the crowd that the band would be selling their new CD "Just Getting Started" and they would be signing autographs. Elizabeth and I turned to each other and I said, "I'm totally having him sign my tits!"

"I dare you!" she said.

But it wasn't to be. I had a six and four year old to think of afterall. Besides, Elizabeth had brought something along that was more appropriate: souveniers from the concert she saw with her mother so many years ago. Alas, by the time we gathered our stuff up and headed toward where we thought they would be, we were told that the "venue had to be cleared." We headed back to the car with two weary kids, vowing that next time we saw Loverboy, there'd be a babysitter.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

My First Blogging Award!

I've been awarded an Arte y Pico Award by the inestimable Hot Lemon, which was nice because He didn't even make me beg for it. According to the designer of this award, "This prize has arisen from the daily visits that I dedicate to many blogs which nourish me and enrich me with creativity. In them, I see dedication, creativity, care, comradeship, but mainly, ART, much art. I want to share this prize with all those bloggers that entertain me day to day and to share this prize with those who enrich me every day."

So, here are the rules:
  1. You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award through creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogger community, no matter of language.

  2. Each award should have the name of the author with a link to their blog.

  3. Award winners have to post the award with the name and link to the blog of the person who gave them the award.

  4. Please include a link to the “Arte Y Pico” blog so that everyone will know where the award came from.

  5. Show these rules.

I believe I am in compliance with the above but I've also added value to this award: specific evidence of greatness so you can zoom right in. And without further ado, on we go to the awardees...

  1. Deadspot on the Web. This sassy, savvy catchphrase-generating monster is one of the unsung heroes of the blogosphere. He's got his eye on the man and reports wittily on the stupidity of corporate America. He also recaps Top Chef, so you can keep up. I recommend you check him out and read the backlogs. Leave him lots of comments too, because I fear he might be drifting away. Either that or there are just periodic dead spots over there.

    Evidence of Deadspot's Greatness

  2. Amy at Mish Mash. Amy is the mother of teenagers, which is enough to earn her an award any day. However, why I'm giving her this award is because her playful attitude with an edge makes her commentary art. Her subject matter spans the gamut from breakfast cereals to Hummers and her assessments are spot-on. I like the way this girl thinks. Find your way to Mish Mash you will be pleasantly delighted. Just be careful; you may snort your Alphabits while reading her stuff.

    Evidence of Amy's Greatness

  3. Tanya Espanya. This saucy Canadian will make you laugh, cry, and squee with her zany antics, her honest assessments and her beautiful baby. She has such a funny way of saying things that always catch me by surprise. When she's not trotting the globe with her family, she's crushing you with her love. In fact she loves us all so much, she has made the greatest effort in meeting each and every one of us. In fact, I hope to meet her next month!

    Evidence of Tanya's Greatness

  4. and 5. Artful Dodger and Mix Tape Girl at Rants Raves Life and Anything Else That Comes. This lovely couple have bravely started a blog together and a marriage, God bless them. They are simply wonderful. Not only do they have great handles, but they are both excellent writers with a knack for revealing their inner monologue in such a way that is neither self indulgent nor annoying. In fact, their reflections are beautiful. Spend some time with these newlyweds; it's totally worth it.

    Evidence of Mix Tape Girl's Greatness
    Evidence of Artful Dodger's Greatness

Thank you, awardees, for your contributions. You have added something wonderful to the world and we have noticed. Keep the faith.



Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I Love My Country

It finally came, my economic stimulus check. Woo-hoo! My mother said, "Save some," my Grandma said, "Get something to remember it by." My stack of bills is saying "Pay me!" My kids are saying, "I just want one toy." Doc is saying, "I just want one beer."
Me, I'm just drunk with an extra paycheck. Too bad W can't run again...I'd vote for him just to say thanks. Yeah, I'm drunk, all right.
Isn't America awesome? Especially in comparison to other countries. In United States you stimulate the economy, in Soviet Union, economy stimulates you!
Hey...wait a minute!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Variations on My Country Tis of Thee, By Charles Ives

This is a remarkable piece of music written by Charles Ives, the Ives in Currier and Ives Ives & Myrick (Thanks for the correction, Joe Barron!), by the way. We played this piece in band in high school and it was my first introduction to modern orchestral music. It took "America" and twisted it from different perspectives. I was in love.

What is remarkable to me is that it was the first time I'd heard someone rearrange something so familiar and traditional into an abstract and eerie landscape. It made me feel like this was the right version of the song. It has flavors from different cultures, there is dissonance, kind of like the real America. As a country, we are less like a sacred hymn and more like a sacred carnival.

Grab some cotton candy and enjoy.


For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

-Nelson Mandela

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Riley's Negotiations

Me: It's time for bed

Riley: Ok, I'll give you an hour to decide whether I should go to bed now or stay up later