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Saturday, October 19, 2013

End Of Summer Funfest

Preamble mini-ramble: There's been a fair amount of sadness lately. Okay, more than a fair amount, but I'll probably pen that tough tale later for therapeutic reasons more than anything else. Sometimes life is completely unfair. And hard. And a right-royal bitch face. No matter how prepared you think you are, truth is, you're never prepared. Anywho, for now I want to focus on the positive times and fun excursions that occurred over the past few months, and basically try to clean up a few (hundred) loose ends. And for whatever reason, this post has been sitting here for weeks, taunting me with its unfinished bidnez showing. It has become the bane of my creative existence. It's become a fucking yoke of anxiety. Even if it turns out to be a steaming pile of horse poo, I have to finish it and move on. Rip it off like a GD piece of duct tape on my simian arm. I have no idea what my problem is with this particular post. This was a super fun trip! Whatever, Psyche. Get a grip. Here goes...

Okay, so what could be better than being on vacation? Being on vacation with Geo.

Even though he has worked all of his adult life, he only has three weeks of paid time off compared to my seven. And before you get all cranky and crazy, bellyaching how it's not fair that I have so much time off...shut the hell up.

I've toiled at the Special K for 30 years (my entire youth, people!) entitling me to five weeks vacation plus two in lieu of holidays. Longevity has its advantages. So does being in a union. So think of my tired ass, up at zero-dark-butt-crack, schlepping a camera around on New Year's morning while you all are sitting around in your fucking PJs in a haze, drinking coffee, and nursing a hangover.

So... again, SHUT THE HELL UP.

Anywho, one of the weeks my ever-lovin' and I get to spend together is Labor Day Week. Generally, we take advantage of my sister's good graces and spend nine glorious days at their adorable little place on Long Beach Island.

the long walk to the water

even "working women" enjoy a day on the bay

this is my serenity

you're on your own at the end of the season


morning java on the lagoon

This year was no exception, except the blue-eyed lovely, Mr. Miller scheduled a solo date in our favorite club in our favorite city on the first day of our vacation.

How incredibly thoughtful of him. *MUAH*

I'm sure you know what happened next. We packed up Rita, and headed east to Manhattan. For several years, Geo and I had this great run where both of our musical loves, Francis Dunnery and Rhett Miller, would be playing in succession during our time off. Many times they would play back-to-back. One amazing evening they played on the SAME BILL!! Oh, Mama!

Sadly, that has not happened for a while. (insert Sad Panda face here. now insert finger down your throat because that was gag-worthy right there. blech) Aaaaaaanyway, (and I will effort not to sound too douchey) we were invited to stop at Francis and Erica's house on the way to the city. Eeeeeeeee! Ever since we hosted a house concert, Francis has been kind enough to invite us to his home in a small town near the Poconos. We finally were able to make our schedules mesh.

small town 'Merica + college population = ...
makes sense to me
(plus there is the greatest cupcake shop on this street)

The two of them could not have been more warm and welcoming. Their daughter, Elsie is almost three. She is a beautiful, spirited little girl. We visited, noshed and played a little ping pong. Okay, Elsie and I batted the balls around a bit. Neither Geo nor I wanted to challenge Francis' mad skillz. No one needs that kind of humiliation. He invited us into his basement recording studio to listen to many of the tracks to his upcoming album, Monster a prog rock production of his late brother's work. The thing I appreciate about Mr. D is he's always moving forward even when it seems he's moving backwards musically.

Francis, singing vocals, grinding his electric along to the recorded tracks, in his studio... TOO FUCKING COOL! He's streaming some cuts on his presale page here.

Seriously, what a super cool, unexpected honor. He even played the song he wrote for his daughter, at Elsie's insistence of course.

Aaand, naturally that's the time my iPhone decided it was full and stopped recording part way through. Thanks, you Hydro-electric Asshat.

With a huge bear hug and big thanks for a lovely evening, we set off for our next stop, Manhattan!

geo gives me grief about stopping to
snap photos, but c'mon...
this is too funny to pass up

Everytime we go into Manhattan, it's a different experience. The cost for our normal hotel in Soho was Cra-CRA, so we booked at the Wyndam Garden in the Flatiron district on 24th. The room was small, but updated and very clean. The service was exemplary. Plus the bellhop dug my hair. A lot. I highly recommend this lovely little hotel in a great location, especially if you're a redhead.

Manhattan: always dispensing
with the advice

Anywho, the first order of business, as always, was brunch, so we hoofed the four avenue blocks west past the famed Chelsea Hotel to our favorite diner, Moonstrucks. Our mouths watering with each step, running through the menu in our heads, deciding which delectable breakfast treat we'd savor....when this happened



It felt like a punch in the gut. We couldn't believe it. We had to go across the street to touch the building permit sign. We felt lost. Weird how disoriented you get when a life-long institution disappears. Through Yelp! we found a new place called The Dish which offered not one, but TWO bloody marys with brunch. Gotta tell you, after two of those heavy-handed pours, I was feeling no pain and Moonstruck was a fond memory.

Side Note: probably not the best idea to read a large carousel of irreverent greeting cards while "medicated". One tends to A) laugh a little too loudly, scaring the surrounding small chillins and/or Asian tourists B) single-handily boost the economy by buying a shit-ton of inappropriate cards (friends be forewarned) and C) tinkle a little in your pantaloons. Or so my friend tells me happened to her in a similar situation. I wouldn't know first hand. Shhhh...just play along, jerk.

AAAAAaaaaanyway, back at the City Winery...

As my regular reader (singular) knows by now, I am a lover of all things Rhett Miller, especially his solo shows. He's always entertaining and unpredictable. The setlist this evening was Old 97's heavy with only a half dozen or so solo songs. Personally, I prefer a list top-heavy with solo works and a smattering of 97's rarities, sprinkled with his witty banter/storytelling. But then again, any time I get to sit in a darkened room and watch him play is a grand day, especially if Geo is with me.

The crowd was unusual that night. Normally the audience is comprised of 85% devotees, 15% newcomers, but that evening there seemed to be a large portion of patrons who were only marginally familiar with Rhett's extensive oeuvre, 97's or otherwise. Having seen him perform innumerable times (don't roll your eyes, it's unbecoming and they could get trapped back there forever), we just sing along without even thinking twice about his cleverly penned lyrics anymore. It was so refreshing to hear the people throughout the venue laughing at the punchlines of Another Girlfriend, Eyes for You and The Other Shoe. Like being shaken awake to a renewed appreciation for how fun his songwriting is. The man himself seemed pleasantly surprised and energized by the response of the crowd and fed off of their vibe.

Once again EVERYONE, including Geo, joined in for the Barrier Reef and Big Brown Eyes sing-alongs. I can't even imagine how satisfying and fucking cool it is to hear a room of 500+ sing your words back to you. That's what it's about, BABY! Unconditional love barreling back to you in a big ass wave of warmth.

Props to Geo for joining in. He doesn't know a lot of the lyrics, but the ones he does he sings out freely. Hearing him sing, full-out alongside me is my secret joy.

I don't know if it was planned, but we were treated to not one, not two, but THREE encores!


A great way to erase the bittersweet taste of the final chord of Time Bomb. I have a love/hate relationship with that song. Love the pure energy of that tune. Hate that it signifies the end of the evening. Except for this night. This night continued after Time Bomb. :)

For the first encore, Rhett invited opening act, David Wax Museum on stage to sing Wish The Worst and rift about Susie's pregnancy boobs. And you wonder why I get jazzed by his banter.

He is adorable.

The penultimate encore was Coversville: the beautiful California Stars followed by a hard-charging Over the Cliff. After stepping off stage a brief minute, Rhett returned to sing Broadway, effortlessly hitting the high C as if it was the third song of the evening. Amazing. Doreen ended the show with all the windmills, vigorous, sweat-flinging head bobs and energy he had left.

And then he was done. I swear he could perform for a full three hours, and I still wouldn't be ready to call it a night. There is no performer like him. Seriously, y'all need to go see him. It's church.

Usually I fly in one day for the show, then out the next, but Geo and I planned a two-day stint. The second day was filled with museums, a super fun happy hour with our friend, Marcy at a cool bar near Columbus Circle appropriately called Ivy (...gotta boyfriend problem. Old 97's reference, yo) and dinner with our recently engaged nephew, Zach and Kelly at the greatest kabob joint around, Afghan Kabobs.

Two days extremely well spent, and the perfect lead-in to a relaxing week at the shore where we spent less money in five days than the weekend in New York. Go figure.

Rhett's City Winery Setlist for fellow weirdos who like to keep track of such things:

Lost Without You
Melt Show
The Other Shoe
Just Like California
Champaign, IL
Another Girlfriend (big laughs for this one)
Bird in a Cage
Won't Be Home
Eyes For You
Let the Whiskey Take the Reins (best rendition we've heard yet)
Out of Love
Come Around
Dance With Me
Barrier Reef (I swear everyone was singing)
Our Love
encore #1
Wish the Worst
Big Brown Eyes (YEAH!!!)
Time Bomb

but wait! there's more!!

encore #2
California Stars
Over the Cliff

encore #3

fin :(
go home. you're drunk

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

In Which A City Gets Its Wish

I don't even know where to begin.

Last night the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates accomplished what many (most) of us only dared to dream. They beat the Cincinnati Reds in a one-and-done, wild card playoff to advance to the REAL playoffs against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Again, I say, Holy HELL!

With home field advantage, word got out via Twitter from pitcher, AJ Burnett and Andrew McCutchen for the fans to stage a black aht ("out" to non-Burghers), asking everyone in attendance to wear black in the stands. All 40,000+, including the 2,000 SRO complied.

There were even hundreds, side-by-side on the Clemente Bridge listening to the game on radios-- you can't see the field from there-- just so they could be a part of Bucco baseball history.

We tuned in at 8 nervous for the outcome, but not expecting what was to come next. Geo and I knew the team would be pumped hosting PNC Park's first ever post season play, but the crowd... Holy SHIT, the crowd was ALL IN. From the first pitch to the final out, they stayed, they cheered, they rocked the HOUSE!

They were a presence not to be denied. Whoever believes the intensity of the fans isn't a factor on a game is speaking out of their ass, because these beautiful MoFos were loud and they took control from the start. I don't just mean loud... I mean shaking the TV from it's bracket LOUD. Thunderous. I realize there are extra mics set out for post season games, but this was cacophonous and constant.

It was electric.

Even in our living room we could feel it.

A deafening chant of CuuuEEEEEEtoooeeeee rattled the Cincy pitcher to his core, making him drop the ball right before he served up a beauty which Martin hit straight out of the park.

Not a factor, my ass.

My favorite comment in the entire broadcast came after that moment. The announcer said, "This is what 20 years of frustration dressed in black looks like."


There were tears. Tears all around... in our house, the field, the interwebs. Tears of pride shed at the start of game. Tears of indescribable joy at the final out--or in my case, at the highlights played over and over during the morning news.

As preeminent Pittsburgh blogger, Jane Pitt said so eloquently, "there is SO crying in baseball, Tom Hanks". Do yourself a favor and read her post. She sums up all the feelings surrounding this game better than I ever could. Plus she's funny as hell.

Back an entire generation ago in 1992, Geo and I went to game five of the playoffs against Cincinnati at Three Rivers Stadium. Van Slyke, Lavalliere, Drebek and company played their hearts out. I remember the electricity, the camaraderie, the community. We were all in it together. High-fiving, embracing each other, celebrating as one cohesive unit. One heartbeat.

That was our first, and ultimately last, playoff game. There is a sweetness to firsts. You never forget them. Your first kiss, your first love, your first post season victory. Last night's win was an entire generation's first taste of the unifying glory of baseball. Hell, most of them were zygotes or barely cognizant the last time the Pirates had a winning season.

I hope the fans present last night remember this feeling, tuck it away in their hearts to tap into during the lean years, because there really is nothing as special as the first time.

That goes for the players, too.

Congratulations, Buccos! You did it for the city, you did it for the fans and I believe you did it for Roberto. It's been a magical run. Even if you don't advance to the next round, you've done us proud. Thank you.

champagne goggle throw down
(courtesy of ian smith)

P.S.: In February, when asked how many games he expected his team to win in 2013, Clint Hurdle replied, 95. The wild card game is considered part of the regular season. That win made the Bucs final win tally... 95.


There's raw video of the locker room party/interviews and photos from the Trib (I know, ICK Richard Scaiffe) here.

And because there isn't enough of a cheese factor in this post, here's a highlights video found by my b-ball lovin' friend, Lizzie:

And one last mash-up of an old-school, mullet-maned 90s singer and your 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates. You Gotta Believe!!