We Have Nothing To Fear…

May 31, 1975

“One of these nights, one of these crazy old nights… we’re gonna find out pretty mama, what turns on your lights… The full moon is calling, the fever is high and the wicked wind whispers and moans… You’ve got your demons, you got your desires, well, I’ve got a few of my own.”

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Okay, I’d been 10 years old for fifteen days when this song was released and started playing on the radio and I’ll be honest: It scared the crap out of me. “The wicked wind whispers and moans?” Huh? Gulp.

It might have been that my oldest brother, Woody, turned 18 that day, which carried some weird and sinister overtones to it (I remember thinking five years earlier, the day he turned 13 and I was newly five, that he was going to beat the crap out of me because he was now a “teenager” and that’s just what teenagers did).

It could have been that because at 18, he was 6’7″ and 250 pounds. (Well, that’s what I would have guessed anyway, he was probably 6’1″, 185.) He had the long, 1975 hair and some weird, paisley, hippy shirts and gave off a “stay the hell away from me” vibe. To the 10-year old me, he was cool but certainly ominous. (The guy shared a birthday with Clint Eastwood and Joe Namath for god’s sake.)

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He was the only one of my four brothers who had his own bedroom, and trust me, you did not go into Woody’s bedroom. At 10 years old I would have rather been forced to run naked through my dad’s home office singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” while he was on the phone pitching a story idea to his boss than walk into Woody’s room while he was…. well, whatever the hell it was he did in there. (To my decade old brain everything was in play, he was an 18-year old and it was 1975 for frugs sake: drugs, booze, voodoo dolls, ouija boards, dirty magazines, Doors records, weed lined with acid, just everything man, GENERAL SIN, FILTH AND MACABRE lived in Woody’s room.

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I had to stand in line to use the bathroom quite a bit at the Hubbell house when I was 10, and that line would put you about four feet away from the door to Woody’s room. Most of us were too scared to even look in there. If there was no bathroom line you would hurry by much like you would if you were passing an ally downtown and you knew a bunch of skinheads were about to brawl with a bunch of devil-worshippers. You wanted to look, you just couldn’t risk it.

Woody, much like one of those devil-worshippers, might catch your eye and call out, “WHAT THE F*%K ARE YOU LOOKING AT?” At which point you would literally fly into the bathroom, slam the door shut and wait for four days until you knew the coast was clear.

He was a scary dude in a scary room, and it was just a heady time to be a 10-year old in general. The country was in the grips of the “Energy Crisis”, so much so that daylight savings time had started two months early that year– in February. The President had resigned the previous summer and that winter the former Attorney General, John Mitchell, along with White House aides H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman had been sentenced to prison for their involvement in Watergate.

At the end of April the communists of North Vietnam had completely overrun South Vietnam and the war had ended with what was called, “The Fall of Saigon.” I didn’t really know what that meant, but it sure sounded important and dreadful.

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Shamed Presidents, DC big-wigs getting jailed and crazy people in far away lands shooting each other from four inches away. And now the damn Eagles were singing about, “searching for the daughter of the devil himself.”

I made a decision that day to stop being such a wussy. Yeah there was a lot of bad stuff going on, but I was finishing up fifth grade now, so maybe it was high time I started to kick back at the world a little bit. Bolstered by my new fighting spirit, I listened to “One of These Nights” again, and I actually dug it. The radio began to inspire me as it seemed like all the songs were telling me it was time to man up: Kung Fu Fighting, Rhinestone Cowboy, The Hustle, Chevy Van. (Okay, Chevy Van didn’t really inspire me, but c’mon, I was 10, I knew there was some cool stuff going on in that song.)

That night we’re having Woody’s birthday party down in the kitchen and I find myself upstairs, headed to the bathroom. Everyone else is downstairs. Woody’s bedroom door is wide open and the light is on. It’s almost inviting me in. Instead of walking right by, I take a quick glance into the mysterious dungeon. Closer, closer…. next thing you know, I’m in the middle of his room looking at all his stuff.

A stack of Sport magazines. A book about Mickey Mantle. An empty bottle of Coke. A necklace with a saint on the head of it. A Hall and Oates record. A golf club. No voodoo dolls. No dirty mags. No acid weed. No riff-raff at all.

I walked into the bathroom a new man. I’d conquered a fear. I told myself that it really was silly the things that could wind up the nine and under set. Whatever, I was a man now and the summer of 1975 was coming on full steam ahead, nothing to be afraid of at all.

20 days later this came out:

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Published in: on May 31, 2012 at 10:05 pm  Comments (1)  

It Seems Like Yesterday, But It Was Long Ago

May 18, 1980

I’d turned 15 the day before and holy mother of God was I ready for summer vacation. I was winding down my one and only year at St. Thomas Academy, finishing off ninth grade, which would forever be my hardest year in school. My advanced placement biology class was more difficult than anything I ever took in college, and that’s a testament to St. Thomas Academy, not a knock on the University I graduated from years later, named after the same saint a few miles away in St. Paul.

St. Thomas Academy was a grind. I’d gotten pretty much straight A’s all through grade school without really having to exert too much energy and I suspected things would be the same way in high school. But that was when I thought I was going to Southwest, like all my brothers and sisters had.

I wasn’t. My parents had decided to send me to the Academy, mostly for football reasons, as I had proved to be a pretty good player and Southwest was a football wasteland. I remember having no real problem heading off to St. Thomas and at first I loved it– the football was great and I immediately established myself as a kid to watch on the ninth grade team.

Then school started and it was all downhill. My four brothers and sisters who were still in high school and grade school would get up around 7:15am, only to find me already gone to catch my bus during the first month of school, or after that I’d be standing at our front door, waiting for my carpool ride with three older guys I didn’t know. They were great guys, but I was a super shy kid and probably said five words to them the whole year. Plus they listened to Bob Dylan, which I didn’t get at all (but I did learn to like by the end of the year.)

I think it was ultimately my shyness that doomed me at the Academy, but that Biology class didn’t help. Or that my algebra teacher didn’t know algebra himself. I gave up on the math class, but I worked my ass off in Biology only to get high C’s. Hardest class I’ve ever taken by a mile. Throw in getting up an hour earlier than my siblings to polish my shoes and “brass”, and then getting home hours later than them made me feel isolated. Then after dinner I’d have two to three hours of homework while my public school siblings would be done in fifteen minutes.

I tried, but I became miserable. You weren’t allowed to rebel at St. Thomas Academy, so I rebelled at home. My parents should have kicked me out of the house I was such a jackass to them. I lived too far away from any of the people I now knew to ever hang out with them, so when I’d get back to school on Mondays and hear about all the “partying” at so and so’s house from the weekend, I felt like I was missing out.

It was a strange year, I didn’t hate the school, but I hated the long hours that going there entailed, and to a 14-year old there was no difference. But there always seemed to be something that kept me going. The Winter Olympics didn’t hurt obviously.Image

Then Southwest made it to the state tournament in hockey for the first time in a few years, so that got me through March.

Once spring hit, like any junior high kid, the thought of summer on the horizon was enough to get me to the finish line. Another important note about St. Thomas was that it didn’t have girls. I liked girls and I missed having them around. With no girls sitting in front of me in class, I was forced to find my daydreams elsewhere. That spring my hormones were mostly raging for one Kristy McNichol, who’d I’d seen recently in the movie, “Little Darlings” with Matt Dillon and Tatum O’Neil. I was a little timid to admit to this crush since my brother Joe had pronounced her a mutt at some point. Man, I went to an all boys military academy, anything with long hair looked good to me.

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So how does an about to be 15-year old get pushed over the hormonal edge? The day before my birthday, Friday, May 16, I go to a movie with two of my brothers and my sister. We got in for free because Margy worked at Edina Theatre. The movie was “Fame” and Irene Cara was naked in it. It wasn’t cool naked though because she was crying as she took her top off for some sleazy broadway guy who was filming her. I mean, at 14 and 364/365ths, I pretty easily got past the exploitation of it and was able to just enjoy the nudity part of it.

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Summer was coming, I was about to be released from a school I hated and there was a crying, naked black woman on a huge screen in front of me. I thought I was going to explode.

Then two days later, May 18, 1980, part of the world did explode. Mt. St. Helens erupted in Washington state, after 130 years of dormancy, killing 57 people and causing damage in the billions of dollars.

What the hell, a mountain exploded? I thought that only happened in old books or movies. The whole country stopped on a late Sunday afternoon to watch the evening news. (CNN would literally launch two weeks later, proving that the world waits for no man… or television network.)

The next day we learned that ashes from the explosion had landed in 10 different states! The devastation was pretty mind boggling: 185 miles of highway destroyed, thousands of animals and trees were wiped out as over a cubic mile of ash and lava spewed out from the mountain.

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It was the biggest, “wow, we’re just tiny people on a tiny planet that could go at any time” moment of my lifetime.

Bob Segar had a huge hit on the radio at the time called, “Against the Wind”,  (the opening words are the title of this post), which has the following lines:

“And the secrets that we shared… the mountains that we moved… caught like a wildfire out of control… ’til there was nothing left to burn and nothing left to prove.”

I transferred to a public school. Fame became an underground cult hit. Kristy McNichol, who it seemed was on the edge of stardom at the time, faded away after being dubbed a “troubled young actress”. She wouldn’t be diagnosed as bi-polar until 12 years later, and wouldn’t publicly reveal that she was a lesbian for 20  years after that. (Those who knew me in ninth grade would just nod their heads knowingly when told that I had a months long crush on a crazy lesbian.) Bob Segar just rolled on.

None of that really seems to matter under the scope of something like Mt. St. Helens. Just tiny people on a tiny planet.

It seems like yesterday, but it was long ago.

Published in: on May 18, 2012 at 9:54 pm  Comments (2)  

The Legend of the Christmas Bush

by Bill

“Here you go, these will work just perfectly!” Tommy Target chirped at my wife, as he stuffed the strange looking box into her arms.

“Are you sure…this um… this doesn’t look right,” Jen answered. Jen is a retail executive and has a pretty good radar for “retailer trying to get you to buy something you don’t want or need.”  “Why is there a bush on the box?” Jen wondered aloud.

Tommy Target hesitated for a second before answering in a distinct, “I work here and you don’t, so I know what’s up with what and you don’t” tone, “oh, that’s just the picture they use on the box, they’re just Christmas lights, they’ll work just fine on your tree!”

Jen’s a little to savvy for that load of retail-speak, and as she started to open the box to see just what was up with what, Tommy Target looked on with a whimpering look on his face, as if he was watching someone take a poop in his cereal.

Jen dumped the contents of the box on the floor, to see, if in fact, the “Christmas lights that would work on our tree just perfectly” would, and if so, why in the hell did the picture on the box have them on a bush? Jen, though filled with plenty of Christmas knowledge, couldn’t remember anything about the sacred tradition of the Christmas bush.  She remembered daydreaming a lot (about rollerskating– a post for another day, trust me) back in 1st and 2nd grade, but she was pretty sure none of her teachers had slipped that one by her. None of the back recesses of her mind could conjure up:

“And lo, since the settlers and apostles, although happy with the birth of the baby Jesus and all, took pause over concern with the environment, and coupled with Judas’ constant bitching about “going more green” and “needing to head off this global warming thing before it gets too bad”.  Though it’s widely known that Judas was always whining about something (most notably Jesus’ popularity, which Judas scoffed at as being due to his “cheap parlor trick of turning water into wine,” but Judas was also into global warming, like, big time.  Later  bible stories tend to prove Judas wrong, both about Jesus and the environment.   In fact a little research shows several accounts of one of the wise-men saying he was, quote, “fucking freezing.” Anyway, we digress from our tale, where was I… Lo, concern for the environment had swelled to the point that chopping down trees had become frowned upon all over Jerusalem, so the settlers and apostles and general gadabouts gathered around, and celebrated the hipster, eco-friendly, Christmas Bush.”

No, though my beautiful wife is constantly mumbling about how her second grade teacher was, “full of shit, and a lying whore to boot” she is almost one hundred percent sure she never tried to slip the legend of the Christmas Bush past her.

Tommy Target and Jen both stared at the tangled mess of netting with scattershot lights attached and tired resignation washed over both of their faces: the cereal had definitely been pooped in.

Jen pulled up the netting, which coincidentally looked like it might just fit perfectly over a bush in the yard, and held it up for Tommy Target’s inspection. She’d come looking for lights to hang on our Christmas Tree and instead been offered some sort of hideous parka that Buffalo Bill from “Silence of the Lambs” might wear to a Christmas party.

Jen stared daggers at Tommy Target and tried to clarify the situation, “This is a net you throw over a bush in your yard. You told me they were lights I could hang on a Christmas Tree.”

Tommy Target seethed daggers back at Jen and let out a triumphant, “I’ve been paged” as he walked away, trying to hold his dignity like one of those buck-toothed hillbillies that gets dismissed by Simon Cowell.

No Christmas lights at Target. On December 10th. Over to Menards. Sold out there too. On December 10th. Jen’s a retail planner, so she gets that adding more product is a little more complicated than going back to the loading dock and digging through the magic, “Shit We’re Out of Box.” But seriously? No more Christmas lights on December 10th? Who plans this stock, Jen’s second grade teacher? Who’s got all the G** D*** Christmas lights? Al-Qaeda? The Occupiers? Wall Street? Have all the Christmas lights been sucked into Tim Tebow’s living room because that’s the only place that they’ll truly be happy? We can’t buy Christmas lights on December 10th??? What the hell? We went to bed in America and woke up in Namibia.

At any rate, after another Target and a couple of stabs at a big hardware store and a little hardware store, Jen arrived home with two boxes of Christmas lights to hang on our tree.

They’re the fat, bulbous, many-colored kind that went out of vogue at some point in the early 70’s. And you know what? They’re awesome. The moment we had them hung up and plugged in, we both wanted to pour a lowball and sexually harass our secretaries. We poured our drinks of Holiday cheer, turned off all the lights other than our mod-70’s bulbathons and watched “Holiday Inn” as the neighborhood twinkled and buzzed with the sounds of a Christmas party that we weren’t invited to.

And lo, all was well. Judas can suck it.

 

 

Published in: on December 13, 2011 at 9:17 pm  Comments (3)  

So That Happened…

by Bill

Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, John Elway and Fran Tarkenton never threw for 400 yards in consecutive NFL games.  Panthers rookie QB Cam Newton has done it in his first two NFL games, becoming just the 7th QB in NFL history to turn the trick.  It took him two weeks to do it.  Maybe this robo-qb that a lot of us experts guessed would have a huge learning curve in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE (I hate everyone who says that), have a huge learning curve in judging talent.

When I look back at the events of this past weekend it’s clear to me that I may be terrible at predicting anything.

In order of my personal interest, here are 10 happenings from the weekend that was that had me muttering, “what the hell?”

10. A 16-Year Old Girl Won a Professional Golf Event

Lexi Thompson won the Navistar LPGA Classic by five shots on Sunday.  She’s 16. I know nobody cares about women’s golf anymore because nobody knows how to pronounce any of the best player’s names– but this could be the shot-in-the-arm the sport needs.  The LPGA’s last superstar-in-waiting, Michelle Wie, was forced to shoot 80 in a bunch of men’s events before she ever did anything in her own sport– sort of like joining the circus before going through clown school.  Thompson is not even old enough to join the LPGA tour yet, although I’m betting concessions will be made and although she may not get a card, she’ll be able to play in any tournament she wants to.  Who doesn’t what the “new hottest thing” to be a part of their tournament?  It will be fun to watch Thompson over the next decade: put a stranglehold on the sport, marry Christie Kerr’s Swedish pool boy, get busted sharing nude texts with Bieber and then spiral into madness as her golf game and her life go to shambles.

9. The Vikings Blew a 17 Point Halftime Lead and Lost to the Buccs

The saddest (or arguably the only sad) thing about this is how little I cared a half hour after the game was over.  The Vikings are really bad. It’s hard to care. I feel bad for Adrian Peterson– he’s one of the five best players in the league, but he’s surrounded by a fat, over-the-hill quarterback and a terrible group of receivers.  We have one fast receiver (Percy Harvin) and I can’t recall him running one deep route in his season-and-two-games with the team.  Maybe they don’t send him deep because, “they’ll just cover him anyway”.  This is a team that is horrible on the road and now they can’t hold a 17 point lead at home against a mediocre team?  Look, if you would have told me at 11am yesterday that the Vikes would lose to the Buccs 24-20, I wouldn’t have been surprised at all.  But I watched the first half and I was…. impressed? You can break down that second half for hours and pass blame all over the place, but the bottom line is this: the NFL is a quarterback’s league– the Buccs have a very good one and the Vikings don’t.

8.  Study Shows 73% of American Adults Now Text

If my math is right, that means everyone texts other than people over 70, homeless people and Katie.

7. Both Mauer and Morneau Pack It In For the 2011 Season

Wait, this totally shouldn’t be on here, nobody cares.  We all had a lot more time on our hands this summer as the Twins were stunningly awful.  It’s a lot more fun in the summer when every night you either watch part of the game or sneak off from whatever you are doing to check the score.  Here’s hoping Morneau gets fully recovered from all of his concussion and post-concussion maladies and that he can again be a good player.  I fear that might not be the case and I also think that missing basically two years of baseball in the middle of your career won’t ever allow you to be the player you might have been.  As for Mauer…. hmm. Yes, they overpaid, yes, they had to overpay, no, he’ll never hit 30 home runs.  I’m willing to write this entire season off to injury and illness, but dude… STEP IT UP.  You’re 6’5 and should come in weighing 230 pounds and have a perfect swing– you should hit 15 homers by accident. Hopefully all the derision sent his way this season will make him a little meaner– he needs it.

6. Airplane Shows Don’t Seem Like Much Fun

Pilot Jimmy Leeward said in a podcast in June about the plane he was riding in Reno last Friday night, “I know it will do the speed… the systems aren’t proven yet… we think they’re going to be ok”.  They weren’t. 10 people are dead and 70 more injured after Leeward’s plane, the Galloping Ghost, went out of control Friday night and pitched into the crowd.  Awful awful awful. I’m sure there is blame to go around and I understand accidents happen.  Come Saturday and it happens again, this time at an air-show in West Virginia.  Wouldn’t you think that the day after a horrible accident like the one in Nevada would have everyone on edge? Wouldn’t you think the pilots would triple check everything?  Maybe they did and he just couldn’t pull off a maneuver he thought he could, I don’t know.  Maybe it’s time to re-think sticking your hand in the fire and then wondering why you got burned.

5. Netflix Founder Officially Loses His Mind

Or, “How To Ruin a Company In Two Months”… Seriously, this is like if the Phillies cut all five of their starting pitchers a week before the playoffs started.  Netflix was cruising along, the company that toppled the Goliath that was Blockbuster…. and then they decided to raise their prices by 60 percent. 60 percent. SIXTY PERCENT.  We’re just dumb, gullible consumers, but wow… you’re not selling beer at a baseball game Netflix, you’re selling movies we weren’t psyched up enough about 3 months ago to go see in a theatre.  So in an attempt to re-brand that would embarrass a 4th grader, CEO Reed Hastings this weekend came out and said that the part of Netflix that rented movies would now be called, “Qwikster”.  Ummmmmmmm…… what? So Netflix isn’t called Netflix anymore? Oh, the streaming part of it is, but the movie rental isn’t? It’s called Quickster? No… Quikster? No… Qwickster? NO??? SCREW YOU!!!!! Dear 15 million people who use Netflix: start using Red Box. It’s way cheaper and you were already at McDonald’s anyway.  Wait, McDonald’s changed it’s name to Foodster????

4. Tom Brady Has Pulled Ahead of Peyton Manning for GOAT

Two games into Peyton Manning’s lost season and Tom Brady looks better than he ever has with two absurd games.  940 yards and 7 tds with one pick in two wins. Our boy McNabb is nipping at his heels with 267 yards and 1 td.

3. 80 Year Old Man Challenges World’s Second Best Boxer To a Fight

And everyone watching wanted 80-year old Larry Merchant, HBO’s grizzled vet of a commentator, to pop Floyd Mayweather in the face.  Mayweather had just finished KOing Victor Ortiz with a 4th round combo that was very suspect.  If you haven’t read about it– the two had been separated by the ref, and had touched gloves, boxing’s version of saying, “we cool?”– as Ortiz was stepping back from the glove touch, Mayweather tagged and stunned him with a left hook and then followed with a huge right that floored Ortiz.  The fight was over before Ortiz even knew it had started again.  Against the rules? No. Against every sort of sporting code ever learned by people who have ever played sports? Definitely.  Mayweather is a weasel who thinks that his undefeated record will put him in boxing immortality and in the pantheon of the greatest fighters that ever lived– but he’s dead wrong. At this point all Mayweather is going to known for is ducking the only boxing match anyone has wanted to see for the last five years– him taking on Manny Pacquiao.  Mayweather has come up with excuse after excuse to not fight Pac-Man, a guy who’s fought everyone is his way and who most experts think would beat Mayweather…. you’d think that someone who wants to be thought of as one of the all-time greats would pounce on this type of challenge… in fact, a win of Pacquiao would put him in the discussion… but as for now the only legacy he’s leaving is that he’s chicken-shit.

2. Syracuse and Pittsburgh Bolt the Big East for the ACC

And U-Conn and somebody else is sure to follow. To which I say, “ha ha TCU”.  The chase for more cash continues to jumble and bumble college sports into an unrecognizable shit-show.  Rivalries and traditions, be damned.  Universities across the land are trying to find out if the grass is greener somewhere else…. here’s hoping manure gets dumped all over the entire lawn.

1. Kyle Chandler Wins Best Actor Emmy

The weekend comes to a close with a nice surprise as Coach Taylor pulls off a huge upset at the Emmys.  With serial winner Brian Cranston not eligible this year– all predictions had Jon Hamm finally winning for his role as Don Draper, or Steve Buscemi duplicating his Golden Globe win for “Boardwalk Empire”.  Nope. Better character and better actor walks off with the prize.

 

 

Published in: on September 19, 2011 at 10:59 pm  Comments (1)  

Vikings 2011, More Boring… Just as Bad

by Bill

(the following will appear in the Fall edition of Minnesota Score Magazine)

“People in the 80’s weren’t doing it cuz they thought it was a cool hairdo… they were doing it because they were bad ass. If someone asks you if you want extra mayonnaise, you have to say yes, because that’s part of it.”

That was Jared Allen, in one of the 100 or so mullet interviews he did in 2009, extolling the virtues of the “business in the front, party in the back lifestyle”.  Remember 2009? 12-4 and one bad Favre throw and one bad coach away from the Super Bowl? Favre is gone and forgiven as that might have been his only bad throw of the season and he was 89 percent of the reason that team was 12-4. His VORP was a record 1 million.  (Those last two stats fall under “columnist approximations”.)  The coach and his “kick-ass” offense and “not so kick-ass” press conferences are also gone and not so forgiven.  Let Chilly’s lasting imprint on the franchise be, “Vikings Football: Nobody… and we mean NOBODY hurts our caterer’s feelings!”

2010’s car-wreck of a 6-10 season was one of the more disappointing in purple history and it seemed to be sabotaged from the beginning.  Favre did his silly “is he or isn’t he” charade all summer– everyone always made way too big a deal of this, including Favre– I don’t care what he said on record, there was never any question whether or not he was going to play in 2010– he should have had the stones to just say, “I’m playing, but I’m not coming to camp… I don’t need it and another month of rest will do me more good.”

Then moments before opening kickoff of game one two decisions would completely derail the team: 1. Sidney Rice decided his hip hurt (read, “didn’t get a contract extension”) and had a surgery that would keep him out the first half of the season and 2. Bryant McKinnie, perhaps still in his “good-time Saturday night” frame of mind, decided to see if he could not throw a block all season and still make All-Pro.  He made a gallant attempt, but failed in the end (though he wasn’t bothered, as his 2009 record of 6 blocks thrown/All-Pro season will probably never be broken).

In a season-saving move, Chili decided to give up a 3rd round pick to bring back Home-Boy. What was to be the triumphant return of the most talented player to ever wear purple, turned out to be the equivalent of signing a 120 pound, Japanese shortstop to a 10 million dollar deal.  (Although Nishi smiles a lot and seems to appreciate free food.)

You can make an argument that the 2010 disaster of a season had it’s seeds planted in the legendary 2005 draft, when the purple brass took WR Troy Williamson with the 7th pick (20 picks later the Falcons took WR Roddy White, who people had actually heard of while he played in college– and who’s now a top 5 receiver in the league) and then flat out stole Wisconsin hero Erasmus James with the 18th pick, leaving the crestfallen Packers to take QB Aaron Rodgers with pick number 24.

Anyway, we have to move on, right?  The not-so-good news for our 6-10 2010 Vikings is that of the 17 teams that were .500 or worse in 2009, 13 of them stayed .500 or worse in 2010.  But there’s always hope in the NFL– for heaven’s sake the Bears went 11-5 last year.

Favre and Rice are gone, replaced by Donovan McNabb and…um….Devin Aromashodu.  If you don’t know who Devin is, let me put your mind at ease– he was the 24th receiver taken in the 2006 draft, selected only 86 spots after skiing great Jeremy Bloom, which might be unfair to say because he does have more career touchdowns (4), than Bloom has skiing World Championships (3).

McNabb should be fine as a one or two year starter at quarterback, he’ll only be asked to throw passes shorter than 20 yards and Adrian Peterson will run for 1,400 more of the most impressive yards you’ll see (there should be a stat for “yards rushed with absolutely no hole provided by your line).  The offensive line is a combination of old, slow, small and overweight (the best thing about Favre in ’09 is that he could pick a target and have the ball there in .08 seconds– last year that went up to about 1.2 seconds, so he got destroyed a lot).  The new Bryant McKinnie, Charlie Johnson, looks terrible, but at least he won’t make the pro-bowl and get into nightclub fights late on Saturday nights.

The defensive line is decent, but not nearly the sure thing they were two years ago.  Kevin Williams is coming off a down year (for him), fat Pat is gone and Ray Edwards is gone.  The linebackers are fine, if not spectacular, Chad Greenway should finally make a pro-bowl.  The secondary will be awful like it is every year (but I imagine every  (non-Jets) NFL fan base thinks that of their secondary.  Antoine Winfield is a great tackler, but I’m not sure he could cover Jim Thome at this point, and the other five guys that get action back there will be bad.  Last year’s first pick Chris Cook is showing a scary combination of the all the less than mediocre skills of Asher Allen, Marcus McCauley and Dustin Fox. Hopefully Madieu Williams is playing in the Twin Cities Co-Ed Rec League this year, where he’ll still be one of the worst cover guys in the league.

The problem the Vikings have in Minnesota is that when they’re really good (’98, 2009) they’re far better than the Twins have ever been in that decade– you can argue that the Vikings were the best team in the NFL both years.  The Twins are the Honda Accord that’s always gotten about as far as they could go with the gas they’ve been given, the Vikings have shown flashes of being a Ferrari that always crashes before the finish line.

So welcome to the 2011 Vikings… they’re a Honda Accord, but hopefully they’ll take the extra mayonnaise.

Published in: on August 23, 2011 at 3:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Call Me Ishmael”

by Bill

July 31, 2011, 10:30 pm:

I’ve just hung up the phone with my fiance and I can tell she’s a little worried about my drive tomorrow because she said, “I’m a little worried about your drive tomorrow”.  Ok, I might have overstated things with that title line up there, I’m not about to set off to sea on a fruitless journey to try to kill a whale, I’m only driving a thousand miles, from Denver to Minneapolis, with all of my Earthly possessions in a U-Haul and my car on a tow behind it. (Why do people say “Earthly” there? Unless you’re an astronaut and have rocks from Mars, isn’t it just assumed that your shit is from Earth? Whatever, all my shit is in a U-Haul and I’m moving back to Minneapolis.)

At this point in the read, you’re probably pretending that you knew that title was from “Moby Dick” the second you read it. Is your life so shallow that you have to lie to yourself like that just to make it through your days? Good, you’re exactly the kind of person that should be reading this. (To those of you who actually did know that, I’m sorry and you’re smart and I’m envious of your Earthly possessions.)

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Anyway, that’s the kind of mental roller-coaster you’re on when you’ve just quit your job and you’re moving again.  The plan is to get up early and be on the road by 4 am and arrive at Jennifer’s by 8 pm.  The plan in “Moby Dick” was to go hunt down and kill a whale. Oh, the best laid plans…

August 1, 2011, 12:30 am:

Fucking fall asleep already! I think I’ve dozed at one point in the last two hours, but now I’m getting panicky– I’m to be on the road in three and a half hours and experience tells me that a couple hours of sleep before a 15 hour drive helps.

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August 1, 2011, 3:50 am:

I’m in the shower and I’m awake and adrenalized.  This is going to suck, but I’ve done 15 hour drives a million times– I didn’t oversleep, I’m off on time, I’ll be out of Denver by the morning drive– this is going to be a piece of cake.

Let’s go kill a whale.  I keep going back to that because my adventure became so much like Ishmael’s. What was to be a trip to sea to kill a whale became a book that is summarized thusly: “Through the main character’s journey, the concepts of class and social status, good and evil and the existence of God are all examined as Ishmael speculates upon his personal beliefs and his own place in the universe”.  Have you ridden all day in a U-Haul lately? I’d been through all of that by the time I was chewing on my Sausage McMuffin in Ogallala, Nebraska.  Oh, plus August 1 is Herman Melville’s birthday, he would have been 192 today, the same age as all the other customers in a roadside McDonald’s at 8 am on a Monday morning in Ogallala, Nebraska.

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August 1, 2011, 10 am:

I hear on the U-Haul radio that sharing this birthday with Mr. Melville today are both Adam Duritz and Coolio, who are turning 47 and 48 respectively.  Here I am, changing my life drastically on August 1, moving home to get married and I’m driving on the birthdays of two dudes who’s greatest artistic achievements are “August and Everything After” and “Fantastic Voyage”.  (Earlier in the ride I’d heard that on August 1, 1876, Colorado had become the 38th state.)  Now that I’m home and comfortable and not bat-shit crazy like I was six hours in to this ride, that doesn’t look like much, but at the time I thought it was crazy deep.  It wouldn’t have surprised me a bit if all my Earthly possessions were levitating back in the truck.  A warmth washed over me as I embraced the cosmic hug the radio had thrown at me.  Here I was, almost half way done, eating up highway, cruising down a summer road, drinking deep from the cup of life.

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August 1, 2011, 10:45 am:

The house I slept at the night before my trip was the home of the Franks (my brother-in-law and sister).

On August 1, 1944 a 15-year old girl named Anne Frank wrote in her diary for the last time.  She was arrested by German police three days later.  Which is to say that shit can go wrong too.  Frank, the precocious Dutch girl who kept a diary during her time under German occupation, had written in April of ’44: “I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want!  I know I can write… but it remains to be seen if I really have talent…”

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My back is beginning to seize up.  The only stations left on my radio consider Conway Twitty to be punk rock.  My banked three hours of sleep is spent.  I am crestfallen when I see a map and quickly realize that I’m nowhere near half done.  Where is that fucking whale, I’m sick of this shit.

On August 1, 1794, a group of angry men in Western Pennsylvania had had enough of what they deemed an Eastern-based national government and were rising up against a new excise tax on whiskey– part of treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton’s program to centralize and fund the national debt. The Westerners felt they were being picked on, as they were the whiskey drinkers– how else to kill the night time hours way-out West?  There were no wig-wearing dudes performing Shakespeare in the fancy halls of New York and Boston out on the frontier— give us our damn booze! This uprising became known as the “Whiskey Rebellion”.

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August 1, 2011, 12:30 pm:

In what would become known later as the “Sausage McMuffin Rebellion” I pulled off I-80 in nowhere, Nebraska at the same time both completely out of gas and completely full of gas.  My first thought as I wobbled out of the cab was, “holy fuck, it’s hot!” 100 degrees and humid immediately blasted me in the face and nuts and any other body part I could still feel (which would not include my pinky finger that was positioned a half-inch from the air-conditioner and was frozen solid).  If I had been paying attention to anything other than the fact that the McBarffle wanted out of me for the last half hour, it might have dawned on me that the present temperature in the U-Haul was 200 degrees below zero.

Picture if you will a normally 5’7 man, hunched down to 5’1, lurching towards an outhouse in a million degree heat, sweating profusely, knowing that every step had the potential to start the rebellion early.  NO SEXY. If it was 100 degrees outside, it was 170 in that bathroom.  Duty done, I glanced in the mirror and wondered when the gremlin had gouged at my eyes and how Nick Nolte’s stylist had gotten ahold of my hair.

That's not me. I looked much worse.

That’s not me. I looked much worse.

August 1, 2011, 4:30 pm:

My first “I’m not going to make it” thoughts are gripping me hard.  I’m having to stop every hour or so for a variety of reasons: my back is on fire, my brain is on fire, the cars around me are on fire.  I can kind of deal with the first two, but when the third one starts, it’s time for the time-out chair.

On August 1, 1933  Carl Hubbell sets an MLB record of 45 1/3 scoreless innings pitched.

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Translation: I’m being a pussy.  Nut-up and get the job done. August 1 is also the birthday of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star-Spangled Banner.  Do you hate America? Then get back in Satan’s Chariot and drive!

August 1, 2011, 5:30 pm

Pulling off at another “Rest Area” just another hour later, I fall out of the back-breaking fuck-tank yelping, “I do hate America, I do!… Just leave me alone and don’t make me drive anymore!”

On August 1, 1978 Pete Rose’s 44 game hitting streak comes to an end against the Atlanta Braves.

I’ve picked basically the hottest day in the history of the world to do this trip.  My walks from the U-Haul to the rest area bathrooms turn me from a frozen person to a sweaty ball of gross in 3.6 seconds.  I ooze out of the rest area to a picnic table and call Jen to admit that I might have to take a knee and surrender.  She’s a bit confused when I try to explain to her that hitters weren’t that good in King Carl’s day, so it wasn’t THAT great of a feat anyway.  She encourages me to stop, or at least to take a nap in the U-Haul.  We hang up and I’m asleep on the picnic table 3 seconds later.  I dream of peace and serenity and not being in a moving vehicle– all of the same dreams George Harrison had when he put on the Concert for Bangladesh on August 1, 1971.  I nap for 20 minutes and then sit there and stretch for 2o more.  I’m a sweaty mess, but I feel much better and I hit the road again.  I never liked Pete Rose.

This is a pretty good re-inactment by this guy.

This is a pretty good re-inactment by this guy.

On August 1, 1903, H. Nelson Jackson, a physician and businessman from Burlington, Vermont and Sewall K. Crocker, a mechanic, completed the first ever coast to coast automobile trip– from San Francisco to New York City in 63 days.

August 1, 2011, 11:30 pm:

I pull into Jen’s driveway and am overwhelmed by being done.  Her pep-talk had gotten me through another three hours and I did the final two just because I had to.  I was barreling down 35-W in Lakeville in the pitch dark at an impressive 48 miles per hour as trucks zoomed by me at what felt like the speed of sound.  I was hanging on for dear life.  I actually pulled off of the highway in Bloomington for the sweet peace and ease brought to me by side streets.  A trip that I’d guessed would take me 15 hours took me 18.5 and I was absolutely worse for the wear. Bad sleep, 100 degree heat, a bouncy, uncomfortable U-Haul and a seizing back had made for a horrific trip.  I hopped in the shower and let both the water and delirium wash over me.

Two days later I dropped the U-Haul off at a small, farm-supply store in Dayton, Minnesota and I couldn’t help think of the doomed Captain Ahab’s hissing speech to Moby Dick as I glanced back at the cursed U-Haul for the last time:

“… to the last I grapple with thee; from Hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee”

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Captain Ahab and all others on the whaleship Pequod ended up at the bottom of the ocean, Ishmael the lone survivor.  I walked back to my car and drove the quick five miles back to have lunch with my fiance.

Home at last.

Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 10:24 pm  Comments (3)  

God Save The Queen

by Bill

London calling to the faraway towns…. now war is declared and battle come down.  London calling to the underworld…. come out of the cupboard you boys and girls.”

Joe Strummer and Mick Jones wrote the Clash’s anarchist anthem 32 years ago because, as Strummer said, “We felt that we were struggling… about to slip down a slope or something, grasping with our fingernails… and there was no one there to help us.”  “London Calling”– both the album and the song were instantly hailed as masterpieces and perfectly captured the disaffected youth of the day– in both England and anywhere else for that matter.  The album’s themes were decidedly “punk rock”: social displacement, unemployment, racial unrest, drug use and the oncoming responsibilities of  adulthood.

For me, and I imagine for many of my generation, the cover of the album– Clash bassist Paul Simonon smashing his guitar on stage at the Palladium in New York City– became the first image to pop into my head when I heard the term “punk rock”.  The picture seemed to capture what a thousand words, or a hundred songs were trying to– it screamed, “I hate you, I hate me, I hate everything…. breaking shit is fun and fucking piss-off world.”

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There’s been a helluva lot of guitar smashing in England over the last four days.

So what the hell happened? And why?

Well, you could probably start on a beautiful spring day in April when a young man who’s never, ever felt like he was grasping to hang on with his fingernails, married a gorgeous young woman named Kate at Westminster Abbey. Prince William is the heir to the throne held by Queen Elizabeth, who has held her role as Constitutional Monarch for going on sixty years.  Q-E has has earned and held this lofty status for so long because…. um, because she was born and is seemingly never going to die.  Privilege is privilege is privilege and we’re going to spend a good two months shoving that down the world’s throat.

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tick….tick…tick

On July 9 the British tabloid “News of the World” signed off for good with the banner headline, “THANK YOU & GOODBYE”.  After all of the phone-hacking, gossip-mongering and shit-spewing that had been unearthed from Rupert Murdoch’s billions-fueled media mess, most of England and the world thought in reply, “FUCK OFF AND NEVER COME BACK”.

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Murdoch appeared embarrassed by the whole fiasco, but his media empire (most notably Fox News in the U.S.) couldn’t help but be hit with some collateral damage. Those who wanted to hate Murdoch and his right-wing warriors were presented with a target the size of England itself. “You fuck-nuts think you can just do or say anything about anyone with seemingly no moral boundries? WTF????”

tick…tick…tick…TICK…TICK…TICK…TICK…

On Thursday, August 4th, officers of the Metropolitan Police Service (London police), stopped a minicab that was carrying 29-year old Mark Duggan, a father of four with reported ties to London gangs. (Duggan was a black man who looked a lot like Spurs point guard Tony Parker.)  Duggan was killed with a single bullet to the chest.  Police say Duggan had fired a gun as well, but the only bullet casings in the cab, or nearby, were from police issued guns.

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TICK.TICK.TICK.TICK.TICK.TICK.TICK.

On Saturday, August 6th about 200 folks, including Duggan’s relatives and local residents, marched in Tottenham in what was to be a peaceful protest around the circumstances of his death.  After waiting nearly 3 hours for any official police answers surrounding the shooting, many in the swelling crowd began to get violent and the scene quickly descended into rioting.

BOOM.

Paul Simonon had smashed that fucking guitar into a million pieces all over the stage.

That volatile and tiny fuse that is youth in revolt had been lit with a giant blowtorch. One of the greatest punk rock songs ever written was also one of the simplest– the Replacements “Unsatisfied”. The under-privileged, under-educated, under-fed, unwashed underbelly of England were hitting the streets screaming out in Paul Westerberg’s anguished howl, “look me in the eye and tell me… am I satisfied? Are you satisfied? I’m so, I’M SO…. UNSATISFIED”

In short, all hell broke loose.

Gangs of mayhem-bent teenagers and young adults filled the streets of London and many surrounding towns all over England, setting fires, looting stores, attacking police and generally running roughshod over any sort of rules and regulations.  Shops that weren’t ransacked were quickly shuttered by their terrified owners as the mayhem spread from the poorest areas of East London to the posh Notting Hill area. For three nights, from Saturday through Monday, dusk and the dark night-time hours brought on a frightening battle zone mentality where police were simply no match for the young and feisty.  The rioting took on a decidedly social media age feel– texting, IMing and twitter were being used to coordinate attacks and stay ahead of the police at every turn.

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As these things go, public outcry quickly became political debate. A retired social worker was quoted as saying, “the problem is that in this country we live in extremes of rich and poor.  We need to live in the middle, like they do in Scandinavia.”  Marilyn Moseley, a 49-year old Brixton resident had a simpler explanation, “joblessness is not to blame… it’s just an excuse for the young ones to come and rob shops.”

Obviously the reasons are endless and the solutions are for societies far more advanced than ours…. alienation, anger, boredom and mischief often lead to uprising.

Amy Winehouse, the London born singer who died at age 27 on July 23rd, is probably sorry she missed out on this– being cut from the same cloth as The Clash.  Winehouse hit the world stage with 2006’s “Back to Black” album, but it’s a song from her 2003 album “Frank” where she could have been talking to England’s youth of today.

From “Help Yourself”:

When I walk in your shoes… I understand a man confused…. There must have been, but I don’t care… I feel the way your soul does there.  Darling they empathize…. looking through your bloodshot eyes… and I know you, you’re so frustrated.  Above we all become what we once hated…. be slight, nobody can be that wise.”

Where there’s rich there will be poor, when there’s haves there will be have-nots, where there’s Queens and Princes living in palaces, there will be the scrubby and unshined living in the streets. When there are those that are happy, it seems there will always be those who are unhappy.

But what is it that can make the unhappy feel good?

Well we don’t need Socrates or Plato for that question– we’ll leave it to the London AP:

“This is the uprising of the working class!  We’re re-distributing the wealth”, said Bryn Phillips, a 28-year old self described anarchist— as young people emerged from a looted convenience store behind him carrying chocolate bars and ice cream cones.

As Joe Strummer wails through “London Calling”, the apocolyptic, political rant of it’s time, (which Rolling Stone voted the 15th best song of all-time)…. he ends the song with a wink, singing, “after all of this, won’t you give me a smile?”…. and then it fades out with him singing, “I never felt so much alike…alike…alike”

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Chocolate bars and ice cream cones.

Published in: on August 10, 2011 at 9:27 pm  Comments (2)  

Forever In Blue Jeans

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by Bill

I was thinking it in my head as hard as I could, “Please don’t come near me, please don’t help me, please don’t help me”…. my mind-meld hasn’t been working very well lately, soooo… he helped me.

“Oh-my-god, you would look SO TIGHT in BANANA!!!!” he sang out to me (and I had to admit he wasn’t bad, he nailed the BA-NA-NA!)

Me: “Um…. excuse me?”

The young man with the name tag “Zappo” (real?, ironic? who can tell anymore?) had noticed me looking over the jeans racks and decided to offer his two cents.  I think he genuinly wanted to help me (in an ironic way?), but I quickly realized it wasn’t in the offing– we spoke different languages: I spoke English and he spoke Glee.  He looked to be straight out of central casting: early 20’s but could still pass for high school, Asian– with that cool Asian hair that can go a thousand different directions all at the same time and still look hip.

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He jumped and clapped and did some little dance move that I was instantly jealous of and continued to sing at me: “OMG……loooook at theeeeze, they are SO HOT!”

I’d come looking for jeans and had clearly taken a wrong turn and landed in the middle of auditions for “Sales Associate, The Musical”

Another jump and a combo clap/spin and he’d moved the both of us 10 feet further down the display rack.

I was stunned.  And daunted.  Stunned and daunted was I.  Trying to look anywhere but at the whirling, dancing dervish and his awesome hair, I glanced towards the ceiling at the huge neon sign that screamed “BUCKLE”.  It was about this time I noticed that the floor was thumping– bass filled the air and some echoey, mysterious voice was singing about throbbing (I might have that backwards, maybe the floor was throbbing and the voice was singing about thumping?)  Instead of a trip to the mall to hurridly buy some jeans, I’d been transported back to Graffiti’s in 1986– only instead of some gum-snapping girl in acid wash asking me to dance, it was some young Asian man trying to get me to try on a banana.  (And I truly thought I’d never in my life feel more awkward than I did at Graffiti’s- ha!)

“Yeah dude, I don’t think these are for me….. they’re, um…. yellow.”  (Yes, I called him dude…. stunned, daunted… remember all that?)

“HAHAHAHAHA, omg…. they’re BANANA…. and they’re skinnies…. and they ROCK…. HAHAHAHA”

Two more quick claps and another pretty slick dance move and it was high time for me to get the hell out of Buckle or Muckle or whatever the hell it was and head back out into the mall for greener, or at least less-yellow pastures.

Long gone are the days of  just walking into County Seat at Southdale and having to choose between two different kinds of Levi’s.  I didn’t have to “shop” for jeans– it was more like picking up take-out– walked in, grabbed a pair off the rack and gave the sales-girl my 29.99 and was on my way.  If it was a cute girl from one of the Bloomington schools I might even try on a pair, even though I already knew what  I was going to buy.  (I might have said Edina or Wayzata girls, but none of them had to have jobs.)

Now it’s just chaos.  I counted no less than seven specialty jeans stores at the Park Meadows Mall last week– all of them made me feel like I was walking into a bar at some European boutique hotel.  Low light, pounding  music and scantily clad women dancing in cages.  (Ok, I made one of those up,  just sayin’)

“MA MA MA MA MA MA MA Poooooker Face” blared from speakers as two types of affected teenagers swirled around me: those from Glee who danced and welcomed me, and those from Twilight who brooded and shot me “eff off” stares.  I was equally intimidated and put off by both of them.  Good god, I felt like the creepy math teacher chaperoning the high school dance: old, fat and stupid.  Yellow skinny jeans, wtf???

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Them: “Uggggghhhhhh, can I hep youuuuuuu?”

Me: “No thanks, just looking….. sweet pop ‘n lock though”

Them: “Uuuuuuggggggghhhhhhh”

I realized that I didn’t even know how to ask questions in this place… Do you have any jeans that are like…. new?  Are they supposed to hang off your ass like that?  Does the price go up 40 dollars for every hole they have in them?  What’s cooler: a full on hole, or a hole connected by 15 distressed threads?  When did I turn 90?  Seriously, are they all named after old songs by Cutting Crew?  True Religion, 7 for All Mankind, Joe’s Jeans, Diesel, Lucky, Silver, Ezra Fitch, APO, Nudie, Edwin, Chip and Pepper.  (Did I really just use the “errr, you dern kids and yer jeans hanging off yer ass line?…. and no, I didn’t make up “Nudie”)

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I stare helplessly at these piles of jeans with the same recognition my dad would have reading Lil Wayne lyrics and it seems to me that the music of Lady Ga Ga has been replaced by the Glee cast chorus (the kids working there) serenading me with: “you are stupid. you are old. you have no place here. you’re making us more uncomfortable than we’re making you. just go home and put your sweatpants back on”

Well.

The truth is, things began to tip a long time ago– even back when I was still in high school.  I remember I was a sophomore and we were all just sitting there in the lunch room in our Levi’s with an odd pair of Lee’s or even Wranglers thrown in, minding our own business (or whatever the complete opposite of that is).  Then the needle scratching the record moment: sauntering into the lunch room comes one of the sweet daddies of the school, a senior, star of the hockey team, wearing…. CALVIN KLEIN jeans!  Huh?  I said HUH?  SAY WHAT?

It was, as they say, a game-changer.  Oh, there were sniggers ahoy, catcalls, what the H’s…. “what are you supposed to be, Denny Terrio?” haw haw!  But it had been tipped, it would stay tipped and there was no looking back.  Soon the lunchroom was filled with Guess?, Girbaud and others.  There was rolling, pinning, home “distressing” and coming down the pike very quickly was…. acid wash.  (Did we give birth to power metal or did power metal give birth to us?)

Years have passed and trends have come and gone faster than Skid Row, but it seems like buying  jeans today is a lot like trying to dance at Graffiti’s back in 1986: you’re never gonna get it right, but ultimately nobody really cares.  Which leaves just one question:

Do these banana skinnies make my ass look big?

Published in: on November 12, 2010 at 12:56 am  Comments (8)  

The Passion Of The Chr… Chrazy

by Bill

Young William Wallace in “Braveheart”: “I can fight!”

Malcolm Wallace: “I know.  I know you can fight.  But it’s our wits that make us men.”

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It’s our wits that make us men.  Mel Gibson certainly went to battle without his wits in his now infamous telephone call–turned Mike Tyson presser with his then girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva.  The tapes were leaked to the world beginning July 12– all told 5 different segments of a lunatic going off on a gold digging girlfriend.  It’s the perfect storm of off-the-deep-end anger mixed with celebrity/alcoholisim/racism entitled spoiled brat of a man with a gold-digging/wanna-be pop-star/40 year old home wrecker who knew exactly what she was doing when she hit “record”– and good for her for that part at least– her life sounds like hell– the same kind of hell living inside his head sounds like.

BUT– it comes out that Gibson and Grigorieva agreed in court over two months ago that the audio tapes would never be released to the public.  It also comes out that Gibson’s side is now claiming extortion against Grigorieva.  I’ll shed no tears for either side of this bratty war between what sounds like two pretty unlikeable people.  To Him: Dude, seriously… what is wrong with you? You’ve made Alec Baldwin sound like Father of the Year.  To Her: Everything Mel said. (Ha… ok, probably not everything, but maybe most of everything….) To Both of Them: Thanks for being so crazy and letting us hear it.  WHAT??!!??? WHAT??!!?!?! Loud panting.  More loud panting.  GIMME BACK MY SON!!!!!!

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We’ve all known Mel’s battled booze his whole life– stories of waking up  in the gutters of Australia after passing out after nights of carousing.  But we liked him anyway– hell, it added some allure to his “manliness” in films.  This guy wasn’t just playing Mad Max, he was Mad Max.  He was good looking and cool and everyone liked him.  “Lethal Weapon” (II and III), “Tequila Sunrise” and “Braveheart”…. with just those three you’re in the Hall of Fame.  Mel was so cool he got past “Bird on a Wire” and even had some of us thinking “The Patriot” didn’t suck.  “Payback” and “We Were Soldiers” were really good movies– not Hall of Fame worthy, but damn good.  All along we heard about a guy who’s been married forever to a fellow Aussie and they have 46 kids together.  Good for them.

Then……… “The Passion of The Christ”, great movie… but the guy has never recovered.  Make no mistake, Mel believes with every cell in his body that Jesus died for our sins– he just seems to have made it his personal mission to make sure Jesus didn’t die in vain.  Turns out his old man was a racist loon and the apple might not have fallen very far.  An arrest accompanied by a crazed rant that would have killed the career of anyone who wasn’t already in the Hall of Fame.  Some people would dismiss him forever after that…. most of us shrugged it off as “he was drunk and said a bunch of idiotic things…. who among us hasn’t done that?” (I mean, c’mon… how cool was he in “Tequila Sunrise”?!?!?!)

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Leaves his wife of forever for some pretty wanna-be pop star Russian woman.  Huh. Don’t know anything about the long-time wife or the new girl…. whatever, it’s your life… you were so badass in “Braveheart” that you’d have to go completely off the rails to lose us.

“You go out in public and it’s a fucking embarrassment to me.  You look like a fucking bitch in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of nig**** it’ll be your fault, all right? Because you provoked it.”

Dear Mel: To some of us…. those of us who wake up on an Earth where the sun comes up in the morning and then sets at night… that’s a wee bit off the rails.

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That would be mean to say to your worst enemy in the yard during your 26th year in the big-house.  Mel said it to his girlfriend.

Okay, okay, that’s probably child’s play in prison or a 2 Live Crew ballad… and it might even pass for “sweet-nothings” and “foreplay” in some of the lesser trailer-park homes across this land of the free and the home of the brave—- but yeah, pretty far out of bounds for most of us.

For those of us who live on the aforementioned “Earth”, saying a vastly watered down version of that “point of contention” to a significant other…. oh, something like… “stop dressing like such a slut” would get your eyeballs gouged out, your drink poisened and your man sack punched, kicked and worst of all– made fun of.

Mel continued: “I’m just telling you the truth! I don’t like it.  I don’t want that woman.  I don’t want you!  I don’t believe you anymore.  I don’t trust you, I don’t love you.  I don’t want you, Ok?”

Every woman that ever lived: “Huh?…. I’m gonna be honest with you Mel, I haven’t really heard anything you said after that part where you had me getting gang-raped by a pack of really bad words.”

Oh, I almost forgot… in-between those two gems Mel hit her with: “You are provocatively dressed all the time, with your fake boobs, you feel you have to show off in tight outfits and tight pants (garbled) you can see your pus** from behind.”

TIME FUCKING OUT……… WHAT?????? (that’s me by the way…. and probably every woman that’s ever lived).  Wow Mel…. you actually said that to someone who was alive?????  There are horrible, horrible, horrible things some of us think in our worst moments….. and then there are our vocal cords…. and NEVER the twain shall meet. Well, at least not when talking to the mother of our 8-month old daughter.

Anyone who has the internet knows there was a whole helluva lot more and it’s just all kinds ‘o crazy.  98 “fucks”, 16 “bitches”, 14 c u next Tuesdays, 9 whores, 7 blow me’s  and 3 each of “love” and “angry” (which actually seems pretty balanced, considering).

So that happened.  Whoopi gave some idiotic rant on “The View” about how Mel’s not a racist because he was nice to her and her kids.  So Whoopi, is Son of Sam not a murderer because he never killed you? WTF?

Now all kinds of “shesagolddiggingwhore-he’sgotdeeprootedparentalissues-sheprovokedhimandknewwhatbuttonstopush (especially “record”) youcan’tunderstandthedemonshehastolivewith–shesadirtyrussianspywhowasonlyeverafterhismoney.

Oh well, at least there’s an infant girl, an ex-wife and a hundred other kids involved.

And seriously, what in-the-hell was with the wild-ass panting and heavy breathing?????

Mel in “Lethal Weapon”:

“Hey look friend, let’s just cut the shit.  Now we both know why I was transferred. Everybody thinks I’m suicidal, in which case I’m fucked and nobody wants to work with me; or they think I’m faking to draw a psycho pension…. in which case I’m fucked and nobody wants to work with me.  Basically, I’m fucked.”

Unknown

Correct. And “Bird on a Wire” really, really sucked.

Published in: on July 21, 2010 at 11:10 pm  Comments (4)  

Standing In The Sun With A Popscicle

by Bill

The 1990’s were certainly more simple musically than the 1980’s (at least my tastes were)– I liked Modern rock or Alternative rock or whatever you want to call it.  The 1980’s were insane comparing from where the decade started to where it ended.  What were the best albums of the 1980’s? Talk about to each his own– Thriller, Purple Rain, Born In The USA, Scarecrow, Appetite For Desctruction, The Joshua Tree, and take your pick from Madonna and you’re at seven albums right there.  I’d throw in both Tim and Let It Be from the Replacements and Hang Time from Soul Asylum.  Hard Promises from TP would be in there too.  It’s a tough decade to rank because I went from being 14 to 24, when you’re still figuring out what you like and what you don’t like.  My 1980’s self wouldn’t have had any Jimmy Buffett, my now self would have all 8 of his 1980’s albums in the top 60 or so.  I’ll try to give you a quick top 10 (or so) from each year (in no order of ranking, plus the Buffett album from that year):

1980: Back in Black (ACDC), The River (Bruce Springsteen), Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did (John Mellencamp), The Kings Are Here (The Kings), London Calling (The Clash), Dirty Mind (Prince), Zenyetta Mondatta (The Police) Crimes of Passion (Pat Benatar), New Clear Days (The Vapors), Panorama (The Cars),  Argybargy (Squeeze), Glass Houses (Billy Joel), Hi-Infidelity (REO Speedwagon)

1981: Hard Promises (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), Escape (Journey), Tattoo You (The Rolling Stones), Ghost In The Machine (The Police), Beauty & The Beat (The Go Go’s), Private Eyes (Hall & Oates), Tonight I’m Yours (Rod Stewart), Freeze Frame (J. Geils Band), Business As Usual (Men at Work) Working Class Dog (Rick Springfield), Coconut Telegraph (Jimmy Buffett)

1982: American Fool (John Mellencamp), Long After Dark (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), 1999 (Prince), Thriller (Michael Jackson), Imperial Bedroom (Elvis Costello), Vacation (The Go Go’s), Rio (Duran Duran), Convertable Music (Josie Cotton), H2O (Hall & Oates), What Time Is It? (The Time), Eye of The Tiger (Survivor), Built For Speed (The Stray Cats) Somewhere Over China (Jimmy Buffett)

1983:  Synchronicity (The Police), Murmer (REM), War (U2), She’s So Unusual (Cyndi Lauper), The Distance (Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band), An Innocent Man (Billy Joel), Rebel Yell (Billy Idol), Colour By Numbers (Culture Club), Uh-Huh (John Mellencamp), Cuts Like A Knife (Bryan Adams) Madonna (Madonna), Lawyers In Love (Jackson Browne),  One Particular Harbor (Jimmy Buffett)

1984: Let It Be (The Replacements), Purple Rain (Prince & The Revolution), Born In The USA (Bruce Springsteen), Like A Virgin (Madonna), 1984 (Van Halen), All Over The Place (The Bangles), General Public (All The Rage), Talk Show (The Go Go’s), Reckless (Bryan Adams), The Unforgettable Fire (U2), Private Dancer (Tina Turner), Zen Arcade (Husker Du), Reckoning (REM), Ice Cream Castles (The Time) Riddles In The Sand (Jimmy Buffett)

1985: Tim (The Replacements), Scarecrow (John Mellencamp), Southern Accents (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), No Jacket Required (Phil Collins), Whitney Houston (Whitney Houston), Heart (Heart), Play Deep (The Outfield), Around The World In A Day (Prince), New Day Rising (Husker Du), Brothers In Arms (Dire Straits), Fables Of The Reconstruction (REM), Last Mango In Paris (Jimmy Buffett)

1986:  Slippery When Wet (Bon Jovi), So (Peter Gabriel), Graceland (Paul Simon), Life’s Rich Pageant (REM), 5150 (Van Halen), True Blue (Madonna), Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams (BoDeans), The Bridge (Billy Joel), Different Light (The Bangles), Licensed To Ill (The Beastie Boys), Crowded House (Crowded House), Back In The High Life (Steve Winwood), Look What The Cat Dragged In (Poisen), I Can’t Hold Back (Eddie Money), The Way It Is (Bruce Hornsby & The Range) Floridays (Jimmy Buffett)

1987:  Appetite For Destruction (Guns ‘N Roses), Hysteria (Def Leppard), The Joshua Tree (U2), Sign “O” The Times (Prince), Pleased To Meet Me (The Replacements), Faith (George Michael), Bad (Michael Jackson), Tunnel Of Love (Bruce Springsteen), The Lonesome Jubilee (John Mellencamp), Bad Animals (Heart), Document (REM), Outside Looking In (BoDeans), Heaven On Earth (Belinda Carlisle)

1988:  Hang Time (Soul Asylum), Green (REM), Surfer Rosa (The Pixies), Lies (Guns ‘N Roses), Nothing To Lose (Eddie Money), Daydream Nation (Sonic Youth), If I Should Fall From Grace With God (The Pogues), New Jersey (Bon Jovi), Never Die Young (James Taylor), Everything (The Bangles), Fisherman’s Blues (The Waterboys), Look Sharp! (Roxette), If My Ancesters Could See Me Now (Ivan Neville), Open Up and Say… Ahh (Poisen), Hot Water (Jimmy Buffett)

1989: Don’t Tell A Soul (The Replacements), Dr. Feelgood (Motley Cru), The Raw and The Cooked (Fine Young Cannibals), Doolittle (The Pixies), Full Moon Fever (Tom Petty), Like A Prayer (Madonna), The End of the Innocence (Don Henly), Pump (Aerosmith), Runaway Horses (Belinda Carlisle), Journeyman (Eric Clapton) Steel Wheels (The Rolling Stones), Garth Brooks (Garth Brooks),  Home (BoDeans), Off To See The Lizard (Jimmy Buffett)

Oddest thing I found looking up those albums? The Rolling Stones released 29 studio albums and thus far there have been 30 compilation albums released.

Looking at that list, I’m tempted to say that the 80’s had far better albums than the 90’s.  But I sure as hell go back to the albums from the 90’s a lot more to listen to.

Back to the 90’s:

9.  Buffalo Tom– “Big Red Letter Day”

Released: November 11, 1993

The Boston alt\rock trio hit their stride with their 4th album, “Big Red Letter Day”, arguably the most underrated album of the decade.  The band’s previous album, “Let Me Come Over” from 1992, was good, but not great– but showed flashes of the brilliance that would follow with the songs– “Taillights Fade”, “Larry” and “Velvet Roof”. “Big Red Letter Day” was introduced to the world in a Nike ad– one of the first ads that was basically just a music video– ads that are run-of-the-mill now– but I remember thinking how cool I thought this Nike ad was that used “Sodajerk” as it’s music. “Big Red Letter Day” doesn’t have a bad song on it– 11 straight good songs– 41 and a half straight minutes of great music.  The album received 4.5 out of 5 stars from AllMusic and garnered the band a peak at national success– like a lot of 90’s bands, the success was fleeting, they made more great music, but never reached the heights they probably deserved.  Time will look kindly on this fantastic album.

Key songs: Sodajerk, I’m Allowed, Tree House, Would Not Be Denied, Torch Singer, Late At Night, Anything That Way

8.  U2– “Achtung Baby”

Released: November 19, 1991

It’s really getting hard to rank them at this point– all the albums left have at least six great songs on them– a lot of the rankings at this point are basically just how much fun I had during the album or listening to the album or what might have been going on in my life at the time the album was out.  It was heresy at the time, but right away I said I liked Achtung Baby better than The Joshua Tree.  “Whose Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” and “One” were immediately two of my favorite U2 songs of all-time. Achtung Baby began U2’s 90’s re-invention from a politically charged, earnest band to a more lighthearted and self-depricating band.  “Mysterious Ways” kicked things off as the first single (“The Fly” was actually first, but didn’t catch on) and as a critic wrote: features a danceable beat, funky guitar hook, and conga-laden percussion, as well as mystical lyrics about romance and women.  Achtung Baby received rave reviews across the board, getting the ultra-rare 5 out of 5 stars from AllMusic, 4.5 out of 5 from Rolling Stone and an A from Entertainment Weekly.  It has sold over 18 million copies world-wide and cemented U2’s status as one of the biggest bands in the world.

Key songs: Even Better Than The Real Thing, Mysterious Ways, Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?, One, Until The End Of The World, The Fly, So Cruel, Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around The World

7.  R.E.M.– “Automatic For The People”

Released: October 5, 1992

“Alternative” music hit hard around 1990– “grunge” coming out of Seattle was nothing more than throwing flannel on and adding a guitar lick or two to the “alternative” sounds that were already out there.  REM had certainly been one of the pioneers of “alternative” or “college” rock– since their debut album in 1983.  After 1991’s “Out of Time” sold 12 million copies, expectations were through the roof for the Athens band’s next album.  REM had intended for “Automatic” to be a return to their harder rock roots, but ended up making an album that was even further from “rock” as “Out of Time” was. Peter Buck has said that “Automatic” came from the themes of “the sense of loss and mourning inspired by turning thirty”.  Many critics, as well as Peter Buck and Mike Mills, consider “Automatic” to be REM’s best album (I obviously agree).  REM again chose not to tour after the album’s release (they didn’t tour after “Out of Time” either)– the no tourning and Michael Stipe’s appearance sparked rumors that the lead singer was dying– rumors that were all untrue.  “Automatic” ended up selling 10 million copies, and along with “Out of Time” (12 million) are the band’s two best selling albums.  “Automatic” received 5 out of 5 stars from both AllMusic and Rolling Stone (and just about everyone else) and an A from Entertainment Weekly– making it perhaps the best reviewed album of the 1990’s.  Reviewer Paul Evans wrote, “despite it’s difficult concerns, most of  Automatic is musically irresistable”…. and Ann Powers of The New York Times wrote:  “Even in the midst of such disenchantment, R.E.M. can’t resist its own talent for creating beautiful and moving sounds. Stipe, Buck, Mills and Berry can still conjure melodies that fall like summer sunlight. And Stipe still possesses a gorgeous voice that cannot shake its own gift for meaning.”  Time Magazine’s Guy Garcia wrote,  “that a so-called alternative band can keep its edge after conquering the musical mainstream” and that it “manages to dodge predictability without ever sounding aimless or unfocussed”.  It’s odd that an REM album with only 3 “rockers” on it (Ignoreland, The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight and Man on the Moon) would be their best– but REM proved without a doubt that they could throw ballads up against anyone and “Automatic For The People” cemented their status as one of the best bands in the world.

Key songs: Drive, Try Not To Breathe, The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight, Everybody Hurts, Sweetness Follows, Ignoreland, Man On The Moon, Nightswimming, Find The River

6.  Third Eye Blind– “Third Eye Blind”

Released: April 8, 1997

In April of 1996 Third Eye Blind frontman Stephen Jenkins challenged Epic Records executive Don Massey in a meeting to let the band open a huge San Francisco gig.  Hype had been surrounding the local band for over a year, so Massey took Jenkins up on his challenge and let Third Eye Blind open for Oasis at the San Francisco Auditorium.  The band was called on for an encore– which is completely unheard of– an opening act getting screamed back  for more.  More and more hype insued and 3EB ending up signing with Elektra Records after an LA showcase where the band wowed everyone again.  “Third Eye Blind”, their first album blew out of the gates on the strength of lead single “Semi-Charmed Life”, which roared to #1 on the Modern Rock chart and stayed there for eight weeks. Though the album only peaked at #25 on the Billboard charts, it stayed in the Billboard top 200 for a monster 104 weeks (which only happens when great single after great single after great single is released). The album ended up selling over 6 million copies and was the band’s biggest seller.  Numbers aside, this album is ranked so high because it was so damn fun to listen to– from the goofy, electro charged “Semi-Charmed Life” (those little red panties they pass the test) to the desperate howling of “Graduate” to the pleading “Jumper” and the crescendo buildups of “Losing A Whole Year”, “How’s It Going To Be” and “Motorcycle Drive By” to the singalong anthem “God of Wine”.  We were on to the later years of our “going out” careers, but Third Eye Blind made it fun again.

Key songs: Losing A Whole Year, Narcolepsy, Semi-Charmed Life, Jumper, Graduate, How’s It Going To Be, Thanks A Lot, Motorcyle Drive By, God of Wine

5.  Gin Blossoms– “New Miserable Experiece”

Released: August 4, 1992

August of 1992– kind of when it all started to happen. “It’s All Happening. It’s Happening.”  The Tempe, Arizona band’s first album stumbled out of the gates with poor sales and luke-warm reviews.  Then a song called,  “Hey Jealousy” hit the radio about a year after the album’s release and everything changed.  “Hey Jealousy” became a pre-bar, during bar and post-bar staple and anthem for the time.  Everyone bought the album and everyone realized it was the rarest of rares: there wasn’t a bad song on the record.  The Gin Blossoms took their name from an old photo of WC Fields, that was titled “WC Fields with gin blossoms”– the drinkers eyes and cheeks, filled with colors that shouldn’t be there. After becoming wildly popular in the Tempe bars, the Gin Blossoms signed a major label deal and immediately learned what that entails– people telling you how to do something differently from what you’ve been doing, even though what you’d been doing had been making everyone at the bar pretty damn happy and satisfied. Thus the name of their first album– “New Miserable Experience”.  Founding member, lead guitarist and songwriter Doug Hopkins drank heavily and became the most disallusioned of the group and fought constantly with the label. Seeing no alternative, the group replaced Hopkins as lead guitarist.  The huge success of the album, lead by Hopkins penned singles “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You”, were tempered by Hopkins dismissal and then suicide on December 4, 1993.  It’s probably no surprise that the Gin Blossoms never again struck such a chord with their music.  “Hey Jealousy” was a rip-roaring single about begging your way back to an old flame– “Lost Horizons” a poetic take on yearning for a relationship and life itself, to feel new again, “29” a pleading take on wanting to grow up, but not having the slightest idea of how to (Generation X in a nutshell). “New Miserable Experience” hit the stereo at 3015 E. Calhoun Parkway and really never left. It’s still one of my go-to listens.

Key songs: Lost Horizons, Hey Jealousy, Mrs. Rita, Until I Fall Away, Cajun Song, Hands Are Tied, Found Out About You, Allison Road, 29, Pieces of the Night, Cheatin’

4.  Johnny Clueless– “Kissed In Kansas”

Released: 1994

Well, what can I say…. If I made this list ranked on how much fun I had listening to an album (both the cd and live) it might be at #1.  Overrated? Probably.  They never did match the urgency of this original album again– a lot of good songs on the later albums, but nothing quite as much fun as the stuff on this one.  There were Minnesota music fans from this era who would choose Tim Mahoney or GB Leighton over Clueless, and I never got that.  This album was far better than anything those two ever did.  (I guess anyone who hung out at Champps in Minnetonka would disagree and anyone who went to St. Cloud St. would agree).  All I know is I wore this sucker out.  I heard many different times from friends and relatives from way out of state who’d play this album and get this repsonse: “who is this? this is awesome!”  The album had enough local success to give the band the tiniest taste of fame: a Billboard magazine article, a gig on the “Jenny Jones Show”, and an opening slot on a Cheap Trick tour… like a million bands before them, they teetered on the brink of success, but never broke through. When it was all said and done, the band sold around 30,000 cd’s– far more than 98 percent of bands ever will, but not what the hope was after this fantastic debut.  A LazyEye article once said: Since Johnny Clueless formed in 1992 as a beer-drinking, good-time party band at St. Cloud State, they’ve seen their dreams become more and more lofty. “When we started out,” Brown said, “all we wanted was to be able to play at the bar we hung out at.”  That first bar was The Red Carpet in St. Cloud. And then The Cabooze in Minneapolis. They might have topped out with a gig at Cedar Fest in the summer of 1997.  The first time I ever saw them play was at Melvin’s in Spicer on a summer night in 1994.  A rocking cover of the Scooby Doo theme song got me to whip a 20 bill on stage.  Music Fest the next summer back at Melvin’s was one of my favorite live shows I’ve ever seen and an over-served me chatted Steve Brown up at the bar for an hour after their gig.  What Jim Walsh wrote about the Gear Daddies is true for most Minnesotans from the early 90’s– but for a small few of us, it was even more true for Johnny Clueless.  A little perspective here: there have been 720 non-pitchers who have played in a major league baseball game and never got a hit– with the most hitless at-bats belonging to Larry Littleton, who played for the Cleveland Indians in 1981 and was hitless in 27 plate appearances.  But here’s the deal for all 720 of those guys: in their home towns, growing up, in t-ball, little league and in high school– everyone who saw them play thought they were the best baseball player they had ever seen. Johnny Clueless had a helluva run.

Key songs: Think You’d Agree, Girl, Callous Man, The Biggest Bed, #5 Wheel, Million Years, Grandma’s For The Weekend, Do It Over Here, An Hour Away

3.  Pearl Jam– “Ten”

Released: August 27, 1991

Yes, “Ten” was released a month before “Nevermind”– for some reason a lot of the compare/contrasters always liked to play the “Pearl Jam just copied Nirvana” card.  Both bands were based in Seattle and immersed in the same music scene and both jumped on the “grunge” sound that took over the world in 1992.  What a lot of us know, however, is that the Seattle “grunge” scene was just a continuation of the “Minneapolis Rock” scene that had started in the mid-80’s with The Replacements and Husker Du. Anyhow, I’ll never know why people had to take sides in the Nirvana/Pearl Jam debate– but I was on the Pearl Jam side of the fence from the get go. Why? Because I liked all of their songs better. As the years pass many music hipsters will take the stance of, “it’s not even a debate– it’s Nirvana”– Will Leitch just wrote in his latest book, “I think by now even Eddie Vedder would take Nirvana in that old debate”…. nope. Time doesn’t change how the music sounds to me– I’ll still take Pearl Jam any day of the week.  I like Nirvana too, but Ten just did more for me than Nevermind.  I still remember the first time I ever heard “Ten” — it’s the fall of 1992– I was at an apartment party in Uptown– it was one of those parties where I didn’t know many people there– just a couple of buddies that I went with and a couple of the girls who lived there that we had just met out on the town a few weeks earlier.  So without a ton of people to talk to, I couldn’t  stop straining my ears to listen to the music.  The guy seemed to be screaming at me, which I’d heard a million times before– but what was different was: I liked the sound of this guy screaming at me. I LOVED IT.  I bought the cd the next week and put it into heavy rotation right away.  I won’t bore you (too late?) with the Pearl Jam story– we’ve all heard it a million times by now (but did you know “Ten” was named for Mookie Blaylock’s uniform number– Mookie Blaylock being the original name of the band).  It’s not really up for debate: Pearl Jam was the most popular American Rock Band of the 1990’s.  “Ten” sold over 15 million copies (after taking almost a year to sell any at all) and the band has sold over 60 million records to date. They’re Hall of Famers and continue to have huge success two decades in.  I remember an interview I read with Trent Reznor back in the whole early 90’s “compare everyone to Nirvana” era– the writer mentioned to Reznor all the similarities between he and Kurt Cobain and his answer was a very good one and it would have fit for Eddie V too– Reznor said of their same age and sound and lyrical type: “yeah, but he’s addicted to heroin and I’m not”.  5 out of 5 from AllMusic and Rolling Stone… a B- from EW (wtf? nice try EW!)

Key songs: Once, Evenflow, Why Go, Black, Jeremy, Oceans, Release

2.  The Refreshments– “Fizzy Fuzzy Big and Buzzy”

Released: February 27, 1996

If I’d done this list on January 1, 2000 this album probably would have been around 10th or so on this list– a decade of perspective moves it way up.  Again, fun being the single biggest factor that separates this album– the amount of fun I’ve had listening to it both on stereo and live.  In early 1995, a buddy of mine who was from Arizona gave me a cd called “Wheelie” because he knew I loved music and figured I’d love this band– he told me they were the hottest thing going down in Tempe.  I gave it a few spins and I liked it a lot– it didn’t leap out at me, but I liked it a lot. It was about a year later that most of the same songs, polished up, came out as “Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy”-which I snapped up right away and instantly fell in love with. I didn’t get to see them live until the summer of 1997 at Ceder Fest and they absolutely KILLED.  I was completely sold and have now seen the Freshies/Peacemakers probably 40 or so times (living in Scottsdale for almost 3 years certainly helped crank up that total) with the highlights being 4 times down in Mexico when they put on 3.5 hour shows outside, right next to the beach on the Sea of Cortez. Even more than their Tempe brethren, the Gin Blossoms, the Refreshments embodied the “Southwest Sound”– lyrics straight from the desert and tales from the dusty border towns and Mexico. I’ve never heard a band that sounded more like the place they were from– you can almost hear a rattlesnake hissing and plenty of tequila being swallowed during their songs. It’s the true mark of a great album when your favorite song from an album has changed 6 or 7 different times. There is truly not a bad song on the album and listening to it just puts you in a good mood and makes you want to throw a party. Big time success has seemed to elude Roger Clyne and company, which is ridiculous and all the proof you need to show you how screwed up the music industry is.  “Banditos” got the band their only song on national radio, and doing the theme song for “King of the Hill” put some well deserved dollars in their pockets. AllMusic gave this album 4 out of 5 stars– a star short. Here’s to life!

Key songs: Blue Collar Suicide, European Swallow, Down Together, Mekong, Girly, Banditos, Mexico, Interstate, Suckerpunch, Nada

1.  Soul Asylum– “Grave Dancer’s Union”

Released: October 6, 1992

No, this was not a fair fight. I spent three years going to grade school with Dave Pirner and playing football and floor hockey and playground hoops etc with him.  Their breakthrough to the big time was ridiculously fun to watch, hard-earned and entirely deserved. When they were at the top of their game, there wasn’t a better live band on the planet. Dave never talked a lot, but he knew how to dominate a stage. DOMINATE. He had being a rock star down. He’d strut to the mic with a rock n’ roll swagger and take one last puff on his cig, before theatrically ditching it and then wailing into his guitar. And I was sold every time he did it.  The Wedenesday night before Thanksgiving shows were must see’s for years and I was thrilled, jazzed, wowwed every single time.  One of the most memorable first songs I’ve ever seen was from one of those shows, me and my group were playing the “what will they play first?” game and of course Dave was one giant step ahead of us and he came out and raised his arms far above his head, all 80’s glam rock style and the place shook as the keyboard broke into the first notes of “Jump” by Van Halen– the band played a verse and a chorus and then Dave grinned into the mic and said, “ok, just kidding”.  Full disclosure: the first incarnation of the band, “Loud Fast Rules” played at a dance my senior year and I thought they were horrible.  It was hard core punk music and I was used to listening to Tom Petty and Bruce– I didn’t know what to make of them.  Six albums in and the Mpls boys (while already having made a couple of fantastic albums) hit it huge with GDU. “Runaway Train” hit the radio and MTV and won a Grammy and the band played at Clinton’s inaugeration and Dave was dating a movie star. Pirner received raves from all in the know for his lyrics and although he certainly wasn’t a classic “good singer” there was something just perfect about his voice anyway. The album spent 76 weeks on the Billboard album charts and sold over 3 million copies and pretty much set up the boys for life. They made all of us from the St. Thomas Apostle playground proud– and although anyone who loves music would completely shout me down for this (and this is coming from a monsterous Replacements fan)– I’d take Soul Asylum in a song for song showdown, and live it was simply no contest (which of course is silly, let’s just leave it at– they’re both all-time great bands). I don’t know that an album and it’s success will ever make me happier than this one. “Standing in the sun with a popscicle, everything is possible, with a lot of luck and a pretty face and some time to waste” might have been my favorite line of the 90’s– when are your possibilities more endless than with a popscicle in the sun???? And with luck and a pretty face… well, you’ve got it all. Album of the decade.

Key songs: Somebody to Shove, Black Gold, Runaway Train, Keep It Up, Homesick, Get On Out, April Fool, Without A Trace, Growing Into You, The Sun Maid

Published in: on June 24, 2010 at 5:26 pm  Comments (2)