Humor: My In-Laws And My Wedding Reception

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As I’ve chronicled multiple times over the course of B&V, I was single until my late 30s. I’d share more of those stories but those records are sealed until 25 years after everyone I’ve ever known is dead. I was slowly getting my act together and turning away from my life as a “rounder” when I met the Rock Chick. She had a daughter and was cautious around me or any other newcomer at first, so things developed slowly. Eventually she realized I was harmless and things began to progress a little more quickly. Obviously, it’s more complicated than that, but that’s another story.

As I got to know her, I realized the Rock Chick had a much different childhood than I did. I was the product of a solid, Catholic marriage. My parents are together to this day and seem to like each other. I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City in what I now refer to as “the bubble” of Johnson County, Kansas. While I would never describe my childhood as idyllic (the struggle is real, folks), from the outside looking in, it wasn’t exactly a difficult upbringing.

My wife grew up in the country, on a farm, in a very small town. I think describing her childhood home as a “town” is actually generous. It was more of a wide stretch in the road. She grew up in the shadow of Kansas City but was far enough away it must have seemed light years away from civilization. At least she could pick up the local radio stations and got a good grounding in rock and roll music. Her parents for many reasons, alas, didn’t stay together. She is, what is now called, a product of divorce.

After the split, as is common, the two warring parties never seemed to get along. The Rock Chick’s mother Rose rarely had anything nice to say about her father Bud and Bud rarely said anything at all about Rose. After the Rock Chick moved to Kansas City her parents never spoke again. Child support was the only thing they spoke about anyway. Soon Rose decided to move out West with her son, my wife’s half brother, to live amongst the Grand Tetons. We rarely see my mother-in-law. On one of her brief visits to Kansas City, for a family reunion, I found myself chatting with Rose. I was hitting the vodka lemonades pretty hard, but I still remember the conversation. We were looking at a wall of family photographs from the past, and she commented, out of nowhere, “I always wanted to be a movie star.” I smiled and responded, “That’s cool… were you in drama, were you interested in acting?” Her response was in my mind, telling, “Oh, no, I just wanted to be a movie star.” Hmmm… Rose was apparently Kim Kardashian before there was a Kim Kardashian.

As a side note, this was the last family reunion my wife subjected me to. I don’t even attend my own family’s reunions, thus is my disdain for the entire institution. At one point, I was talking to her uncle who it seems was trying to win a Wild Bill Hickok look alike contest. He had the hat, matted hair, big mustache and looked frankly, dirty. The Rock Chick, sensing I was miserable, ran up and asked if I’d like another drink, a curious strategy as I was already half in the bag. Her uncle said to me, “I wish I had a pretty woman bringing me drinks…” I smiled and said, in a low, serious tone, “If you really want that, may I suggest a shower, shaving off that mustache and perhaps a wardrobe re-do…” Needless to say, we haven’t been invited back but I digress.

When I first met Bud, my father in law, I was a tad intimidated. He asked me two questions in order to determine whether I was ok or not. Did I like beer, which I passed with flying colors, yes of course. Secondly, was I a Republican? I think I failed that one. Regardless, he seemed to like me almost instantly. He was one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever met. We would sit around his cluttered kitchen table for hours, consuming more beer than I should have with an hour drive home ahead of me and talked about subjects grand and small. Eventually I got to the point where I’d go down to see him by myself. It was on one of those trips I asked him for his daughter’s hand in marriage. “Well now, she’s the apple of my eye. If you ever hurt her, I’m a marksman and I can kill you and you wouldn’t even hear the bullet coming…” With that he shook my hand and the deal was done.

A while later, I actually went through with it and married the Rock Chick. It was a destination wedding so we had a reception two weeks after that back home. It was a wonderful evening. I can still remember dancing with my new bride for the first time to Rod Stewart’s version of Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately.” There were many people who believed I didn’t even want to be happy, so actually being happy was quite a surprise to everyone involved.

There was some tension at the reception however. Both of my wife’s parents were slated to be there. They hadn’t been in the same room in decades. We sat Rose and her half brother on one side of us, on the Rock Chick’s side. And, to be safe we sat Bud and his date (the man got the ladies) on my side. This may have been a tactical error as he had me running to the bar all night to refresh his beer… wait a minute whose wedding reception is this? The tension we’d felt at the beginning of the evening quickly dissipated as the Rock Chick’s parents never so much as spoke. As far as I could tell they didn’t even look at each other.

The next day, as is her usual pattern, Rose said, out loud, “Well, I’m not sure what happened to your father. He’s clearly daft. He looked right at me, and it was as if he didn’t even know who I was. It’s like he didn’t even recognize me, We were married for over ten years. I really think he’s losing it.” Well, obviously this didn’t set well with me. I am clearly on Team Bud. I cut her off in mid rant. “You can say whatever you want about me, but that’s ridiculous. He’s a good man, and he’s not daft.” I was angry and indignant. This pattern of her bad mouthing him was ending on my watch. I went full on Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” mode in defense of Bud. I had hoped to put this feud to rest.

About a month later, I drove down on my own to see Bud and drink some beer. Soon the subject of the reception came up. I had been ready for him to bring it up and had promised myself if he maligned his ex-wife, I would defend her as well. It was only fair. He leaned over the cluttered kitchen table and got a serious look on his face. “I tell you what, man, at that reception of yours, I must be daft. I looked right at Rose and didn’t know who it was. I didn’t even recognize her. We were married a long time…but I didn’t figure out it was her until I was on my way home.”

Well, shit.

So much for my spirited defense of my father-in-law. What have we learned… sometimes people who have known each other a long time, know each other better than I think. Oh, and never jump in the middle of a feud, ever. And last but not least, maybe these two belonged together after all…

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Humor: The Key To A Strong Marriage – Burt Reynold’s “Sharky’s Machine”

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As I’ve often referred to in BourbonAndVinyl, I was single for a long, long time. And then I met a really cool chick, The Rock Chick, and settled down and got married. One might think that this late entry into the realm of marital bliss might leave me somewhat clueless on subject of a successful, happy marriage. How could a bourbon drinking bounder figure out the intricacies of something so complicated as marriage. I turned for wisdom on the subject, where I always turn, to the culture of the late 70s and early 80s. In the case of marriage, I turned to Burt Reynold’s and his 1981 movie, ‘Sharky’s Machine.’ I had tried to glean something from watching Kojak reruns but there was no wisdom on marriage there…”Who Loves Ya, Baby.”

Even though I married an extremely cool woman, with a great sense of humor, she’s still a woman. Men and woman have been inexplicably getting married since the dawn of time. I read somewhere somebody describing men and women as being “members of two distinct and warring tribes.” I think that sums it up. How any two people can set aside the differences that daily life generates, especially when you take into consideration the raising of children and the conflict that generates, is a mystery.

Marriage is minefield. I mean, it’s a happy thing if you’re doing right, but there are always mines out in that field. The mines typically come in the form of questions… for example:

“Do these pants make me look fat?”

“Do you like this outfit?”

“Which shoes do you like best with this skirt?”

“I know the game is on, but can you come in here and help me unload the dishwasher?”

“My mother is coming to visit, isn’t that great?”

“Don’t you remember, I told you we were going to the “Phantom Of The Opera” over a month ago…”

“Can we do something with all these albums of yours?”

The list could go on. The entire mood of the household is dependent on how I answer those questions. Things can go from blissful to sullen and angry at the drop of a hat. I learned this, as I’ve learned everything in my life… The Hard Way.

But then I remembered the old Burt Reynold’s movie, ‘Sharky’s Machine’ and it all became clear to me. As the lead character, Sharky, Burt plays a tough, streetwise, wise-cracking, Atlanta police officer. He has a steak-out go incredibly wrong and gets moved out of Narcotics and into the Vice Squad, a unit of misfits and burn outs. Ah, the 70s… I could have written the standard plot lines they used, or at least I like to think I could. Anyway, Sharky’s partner in the Vice Squad is a man named Arch played by Bernie Casey.

Arch is into Zen. In a great scene that can be found on Youtube if you search on the words “Sharky’s Machine Ghosting Scenes,” Arch explains how  he used Zen to avoid being shot when he was out on a domestic violence call. He was circling the house when the culprit comes out of the back door with a sawed-off shot gun. He thought for sure he was dead. It was then that he applied his Zen theory and he completely “disappeared.” He ceased to exist. His face went blank, his arms went slack. He was putting off zero energy, zero emotion. Instead of shooting him, the culprit just walked past him.

Later in the movie, Arch gets into a gun battle with the crazed, coke-addled villain, Victor. Arch is injured and so is Victor. Victor manages to disarm Arch. Once again Arch is faced with a sawed-off shotgun in his face. And you watch Ben Casey, in what should have been an Academy Award winning performance, in my humble opinion, do his “Ghosting,” Zen disappearing act. His arms and jaw go slack. His eyes are a complete blank. He is literally out of his body. Victor screams at him twice, I guess to see if he’ll react. Arch knows if he reacts in anyway, Victor will shoot him in the face. So he stays Zen disappeared. Victor just turns and walks away down the hallway leaving Arch alive. I have no idea why those scenes made such an impression on me, but I’ve always remembered them.

Then, years later I got married and suddenly I realized why I was meant to remember ‘Sharky’s Machine’ and the Zen-disappearance scenes.

When my wife comes into the room and says, say, “Were you eating potato chips in the kitchen, because you got crumbs, EVERYWHERE…” in the past I would have defended myself. Or blamed the cat. But not now. Now, I do what I like to call, “The Sharky’s Machine.”

I let my arms fall to my side. My jaw goes slack. I emit no emotion, zero energy. My eyes go blank and I completely disappear. I know that if I react in anyway, I’m likely to get shot in the face with a metaphorical, emotional shot gun. Oddly, the Sharky’s Machine seems to work. The other night my wife asked me if I wanted to get a winter place in Phoenix to be nearer to her daughter. Early into the conversation she said, “Are you Sharky’s Machining me?” The lesson there, is that the Sharky’s Machine Maneuver works even when she knows I’m doing it.

The Sharky’s Machine has saved me countless arguments, apologies, flowers and chocolates. It’s literally saved me thousands of hours of anguish. And I owe it all to Burt Reynold’s and Bernie Casey. I knew it was a must to share this bit of wisdom with the rest of the world.

I’m sure it would work for women out there too, when your husband asks you, say, “Do you want to skip our anniversary and go to the football game instead?” Or, “Do you think your friend would be interested in a threesome?” Or worse, “What do you think of my blog?” I think the Sharky’s Machine is a perfect move for you ladies out there.

Remember folks, marriage is a compromise. And, more importantly, “Nobody leans on Sharky’s Machine.”

Cheers! (Youtube.com, search on “Sharky’s Machine Ghosting Scenes.”)

BourbonAndVinyl: A Music Theory, One of Many

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 Here at BourbonAndVinyl we have many theories about music. Unfortunately the excessive thinking we do about music could be classified as “obsessive compulsive.” I truly need to develop some hobbies that don’t involve pouring murky brown liquid into a tumbler and hitting “play” on the stereo. Anyway, I have always believed that if you’re going to marry someone, or live with them, or even date them, it’s very important that they have good musical taste or at least similar musical taste. Looks and physique fade (well, not for the Rock Chick, but mine have). What you choose to put on the stereo lasts a life time. Nobody wants to spend their lives wrestling over the stereo remote. I once stopped seeing someone who admitted to me they liked Barry Manilow.

I was fortunate, later in life, to meet the Rock Chick. And while her musical taste was exceptional, our musical tastes as a couple are more of a Venn Diagram – two interlocking circles, with some overlap but a lot of unmatched space on each side. Of course, in any relationship this is to be expected, no two people’s musical tastes match exactly. That’s why compromise is so important in a relationship of any kind. While the Rock Chick loves AC/DC, Motley Crue, Green Day and the Cult among many other bands, I was horrified early on to find out she hates Van Morrison, the Eagles and wasn’t terribly crazy about Springsteen. She’s much more into music that is current and I’m more likely to find that strange B-side from a side project of a guy in a band that was popular in the early 70s, before the guy o.d.’d. We all like what we like or as I’m fond of saying, “the heart wants, what the heart wants.”

In the early days of our courtship I remember trying to turn the Rock Chick onto some of the deeper cuts in my vast collection of music. Most of this “musical education” was met by the Rock Chick with a frown and crinkled nose, as if I was holding a piece of limburger cheese under her nose. Oh, well. I used to hold my hand up, fingers closed in a ball and holding a coin in my other hand feign trying to push the coin into my closed fist while exclaiming in a shrill voice, “nothing gets into a closed mind.” Oddly this behavior never got me laid. I finally gave up.

Eventually, through a lot of tense and drawn-out negotiations I finally got the Rock Chick to agree to the BourbonAndVinyl Basic Theory of music. It goes something like this:

Theorem A. Every band whose ever had a recording contract has at least one good song. On the low end you have the 1-hit wonders, Sniff and the Tears’ “Drivers Seat” for example, or Billy Thorpe’s “Children of the Sun.” On the other extreme you have the Beatles, who many (not the Rock Chick) would agree have mostly all great songs, with the only exception I can think of being “Revolution No 9.” I’m just not avant guard enough for that “tune.” Most bands people like have many great songs, not just one, but even the haters of a certain band have to agree, there’s always that one likable song. I’m not suggesting here that each band only has 1 good song, I’m merely arguing that even the Rock Chick has to agree that despite her hatred of Van Morrison that “Have I Told You Lately” is a great song, if you get my meaning. I have certainly used this trick repeatedly over the years to get the Rock Chick to listen to bands she normally wouldn’t… “Honey, this might be the song you’d like by Little Feat…” while the album plays on.

Corollary 1 To the BourbonAndVinyl Theorem A: Two people can disagree on what that “one good song” is. For example, in my opinion the only good J. Geils’ Band song is “Musta Got Lost.” That is just a great song full of longing and regret yet oddly joyful. I can’t stand most of their other stuff. My wife likes “Centerfold” which, lets face it, every chick in her generation digs. I remember it being played over the loudspeakers at lunch in my high school and the chicks would all go nuts. All the girls would start dancing in their seats when the lunchroom DJ put that on and the room would take on a musky air… ah, the power of music on girls, but I digress, as usual.

Corollary 2 To the BourbonAndVinyl Theorem A:  The one exception, i.e., the one band who doesn’t even have one good song is the fucking Moody Blues. No one will ever convince me that the Moody Blues ever did anything worth listening to. “Knights In White Satin” makes me want to commit harikari.

Currently, I’m using the BourbonAndVinyl Theorem A of Music to convince my wife to listen to the Doors in an attempt to help her find her “one good Doors song”. Frankly, I love the Doors, but alas they aren’t on my wife’s Venn Diagram. While it has helped me slip more of my music onto the stereo, it’s a tough road with the Rock Chick. Hopefully using the B&V Theorem A will help you too, faithful readers, convince someone to listen to music they might not otherwise listen to. It’s worth a shot.

Remember, compromise is key in any relationship folks. Cheers!

AC/DC’s Stiff Upper Lip Concert – I Discover I’m Dating The Rock Chick

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I met Rachel (*name changed to protect the innocent) during a long, hot summer. She was beautiful, that much was true, but it took some time for me to discover the person behind the beautiful face. Rachel was a mystery to me. I was in my thirties and single, coasting through life from party to party, bourbon glass secured. At the time my whole vibe was, as Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant sang, “It is the summer of my smiles, flee from me Keepers Of The Gloom,” which really has nothing to do with this story, I just like to prove that I can insert weird rock lyrics into anything I write.

During our first date, Rachel had piqued my interest when she commented on the shitty contemporary music scene. “Too many boy bands out there… Nirvana killed all the bands I loved…What happened to good ol’ fashion rock and roll…” I began to think, to myself, “I may be onto something here.”

Eventually during the course of getting to know each other, she invited me to go to the local music store. Going to the music store was something I always did with my friends. It was a “dude thing.” I had a roommate in college, Drew, and we spent many a wonderful afternoon in Aggieville’s best record store, flipping through stacks of glorious albums. I can almost smell the incense even now. (I still wonder where all the hippies went now that all the record stores are gone.) It was like a ritual we had. We’d walk in, rarely speaking to each other, except to point out an exceptional find, make our selections, check out and then only when we got back on the street, share our purchases with the other. If I had known you could get away with taking a chick to the record store I would have started doing it a long time ago. That afternoon with Rachel was eye-opening. I’m not a person who has a lot of restraint in a music store, but every time I hesitated over whether to purchase an album, there was Rachel, standing at my shoulder, prodding me on, “Come on you know you want it, go ahead and get it…” I couldn’t help but wonder if we were still talking about music.

She bought a stack of albums that day. They should have charged her by the pound. It was a great, varied selection of music. Amongst all the classic bands I liked, she had some newer music and music I wasn’t familiar with. She turned me onto The Cult, Green Day and Social Distortion that day. I couldn’t help but notice, tucked away in the stack was AC/DC’s then current new album, “Stiff Upper Lip”. I chuckled because I abandoned AC/DC after “For Those About to Rock”. I wrote them off as a band who’d hit the jackpot with “Back In Black”, an album I bought on vinyl the week it came out, and they just gave up. Sure, I went back and bought the Bon Scott-era classics like, “Dirty Deeds,” “High Voltage,” and the lost gem “Powerage” but they hadn’t done anything good in years. I barely knew this woman so I wasn’t about to give her a hard time.

We went back to her apartment, which I had not yet been fortunate enough to visit. Rachel had a daughter and she was very protective as good mothers are. And let’s face it, I was pretty sketchy in those days. 30’s, never married… Who could blame her. Up until our “record store day”, Rachel had always lived at an “undisclosed location”. To my, at the time chagrin, the first album she put on, while she cooked an outstanding dinner, was “Stiff Upper Lip”. I was amazed at what I heard. I hadn’t realized it but around the time of “Razor’s Edge” AC/DC had started to care again. They went through a bit of a renaissance that continues today. “Stiff Upper Lip” was a kick ass album. After dinner and a lot of wine, I found myself putting that album back on and dancing around the apartment with Rachel. Well, it was more staggering around while air-guitaring, but I’ll call it dancing.

As the evening wound down I found myself inviting Rachel to go to the upcoming AC/DC concert in support of “Stiff Upper Lip”. It was a full month out, so this was dicey. I usually avoided inviting women to concerts. I’ve had a few break-ups that go: “It’s not you, it’s me…”, “Are we still going to the Stones?”, “Uh, no…” Awkward. If I was going to take this woman to AC/DC I was gambling that this thing was going to last that long. The wine and rock and roll swept me away and I figured, what the hell…

The day of the show, we hung out at Rachel’s now disclosed location, er I mean, apartment. The pool was right behind her apartment and we laid out all day, prepping for the show with Absolut Citron and lemonade. It was a glorious late summer day. We met some friends of mine, another couple, and headed down to old Kemper Arena for the show. AC/DC killed that night. I’d seen them on the “Ballbreaker” tour and they were good but that night they killed. Brian Johnson came out during the opening, swinging from a rope tied to a giant bell, “Hells Bells”! At one point, Angus came out to an elevated stage at the back of the floor and melted everyone in the arena’s face off with one of the greatest guitar solos I’ve ever witnessed personally.

I had forgotten the primal effect AC/DC’s music had on women. There were several female fans who were gladly removing their shirt and letting their “freak flag fly” so to speak. To quote comic Steve Martin, “I must have seen 57 tits that night.” I couldn’t help but turn to Rachel with one raised eye-brow wondering if she was going to follow suit. She clearly read my mind and said, smiling, “Never gonna happen, Slick.” Oh, well… dare to dream I always say. It was a glorious evening, even though Rachel kept her shirt on. She was singing along, arms raised in the air. It was at that moment I realized I wasn’t just dating a “rock chick”, I was dating The Rock Chick, and that is a very, very good thing. I had been searching for a woman who liked music as much as me my whole life. I couldn’t help but think, “I may be onto something here…”

After the show, Rachel and my buddy helped direct us out of the crazy traffic. It’s always good to have a couple of Germans with you, highly organized people. I’m Italian, I’m a Lover not a Planner. As we finally drifted into the traffic flow I noticed we were behind a limousine. Without notice, a naked woman burst through the sun roof. I could hear the AC/DC playing from the limo through my open window. Again I found myself thinking, “We must explore this effect AC/DC’s music produces in women… if we could bottle this…” But, I digress.

When we got back to her apartment, where we were having a celebratory nightcap, Rachel turned on the local rock radio station. They were doing a concert “playback” and playing exclusively AC/DC music. After a few selections, Rachel began to complain that they never play “Who Made Who”. “Call the radio station and make a request.” I hadn’t called a radio station since I was a child. To my surprise, she got through. I quickly whispered, “Tell him you’re naked…that’ll work.” It wasn’t a complete lie, she had somehow removed all her clothing without me seeing anything and slipped into the AC/DC concert t-shirt I bought for myself, which I was quickly realizing that my ownership claim had expired on, somewhere around the time the bra dropped to the floor. She told the DJ she was naked, and faster than I could laugh, the current song cut off and he put her on live…”I have a Rachel here who is naked and wants to request a song….” Needless to say, “Who Made Who” was on the airwaves in short order. I think I fell in love, just a little bit, at that very moment.

The evening continued to rage on until, at one point, wildly dancing, while I watched from the bed (her stereo was fortunately in her bedroom), Rachel’s hair flew up in the air and suddenly I realized her feet were sailing past her head. I couldn’t help but think, “how do you pull off that David Lee Roth jump without falling…” Unfortunately Rachel had slipped on one of her pumps that she’d casually kicked off early and she crashed to floor with a resounding thud. Everything went quiet… I crept to the end of the bed and slowly peeked over the edge of the footboard and found she was lying on her back laughing hysterically. Hot chicks don’t usually react that nonchalantly to falling… but there was Rachel, in what was formerly my AC/DC t-shirt, laughing. I couldn’t help but think again, “I may be onto something here…”