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: Bob Marley’s “Legend” and the Confessions of the Evil Stepdad

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Through a series of bad decisions and misadventures, that I wouldn’t trade for anything, I ended up being single into my thirties. It got to the point where my parents were beginning to drop hints at the holidays about their support of any alternative lifestyles I might be considering or concealing. Meanwhile my buddy Tom and I were setting new record lows in depravity amongst the female population of our hometown. My parents were so concerned that they’d started to come downtown to my neighborhood to eat lunch with me on the weekends because they thought I might be “at risk.” What exactly I was at risk for was never articulated…

My philosophy toward children in those days was fairly straight forward. To paraphrase the classic movie “Barfly,” when it came to children, “I just sort of feel better when they’re not around.” I had never had a yearning to be a parent like my best friend Doug who I was convinced could carry a baby to term even though he lacks a uterus. I seemed content careening from one bad relationship to another. I ping ponged between pursuing unattainable women with no interest in me to dating women who dug me that I had absolutely no interest in. I never wanted to join a club who would have me as a member, as the saying goes. It was an unhealthy pattern, but hey, it was my pattern and I was comfortable with it. I lived contentedly alone save for my rather large collection of vinyl records.

And so, as it tends to do, the Universe sent me a test in the form of the woman of my dreams. She was smart, funny, articulate, a well propertied woman, the most beautiful woman I’d ever known and most importantly she liked music. She really liked music. So much so that early on I dubbed her, “The Rock Chick.” How was this a test? Stop the press: The Rock Chick had a daughter. This was a real Rubik’s Cube situation for me, the man-child, to suddenly be regularly in the presence of an actual child. I quickly realized I was going to have to moderate my use of the word “fuck,” which was too bad as it was my favorite word. Until meeting my step-daughter, I thought the world revolved around me. My step-daughter at the time was under the misguided idea that the world revolved around her. The immovable object had met the unstoppable force. I couldn’t help but think, this is going to be difficult. And let me tell you, it was.

The first time my stepdaughter came into my apartment for a Christmas party I was having… she wandered up next to me at the stereo, where I was DJ’ing… and picked up the sleeve to one of my LPs and said, “What is this?” I couldn’t help but think, in a very judge-y way, “You don’t know what an album is, my God girl, your mother has failed you.” I merely told her it was a record album, with music on it. “Like a CD?” she asked innocently. I nodded sadly, “Not really, the sound is better…oh, never mind,” and sighed. When inevitably the Rock Chick and I moved in together I was forced to institute the First Rule of the House – Don’t Touch The Albums. Whenever my stepdaughter wanted to have friends over for a sleepover or what-not, I’d always ask, “What’s the first rule?” She would recite the mantra, “Don’t touch the albums…” I couldn’t help but smile, Obi-Ken has taught you well.

Needless to say I was ill-equipped to be a stepfather. My stepdaughter, who had been living alone with her mom for over five years when I showed up, found it difficult to suddenly have a stepfather-interloper. For a long time she referred to me as “the guy who lives upstairs with my mom.” I’m not sure she committed my name to memory until I married her mother. I feared she was secretly sharpening her cereal spoon into a sharp point to shank me in the kitchen like in a prison movie. I couldn’t do anything right. Of course, in retrospect I must admit, I wasn’t really trying too hard. We played hide and go seek and my stepdaughter would dutifully hide and I wouldn’t go look for her. Typically, I’d dose off. That only worked once or twice until she caught on. I had become… the Evil Stepfather. About the only thing we could agree on was fast-food… I had the sophisticated palette of a 13 year old and she was a kid. We could both agree on chili cheese dogs with tater tots at Sonic…ah, the simple pleasures. Hell I’d eat that right now…

Other than fast food though, things were pretty tense at the house in the early days. My wife’s role quickly became that of a “shuttle diplomat” negotiating the peace between the two warring tribes. This soon got real old for the Rock Chick. “Figure it out…” she would bark at us. My step daughter was just a child and well, unfortunately so was I.

And then, one magical Saturday afternoon, a time when I’m usually napping, the Rock Chick had both my stepdaughter and I mustered in the living room to announce we would be doing some house-cleaning that day. Neither one of us liked the sound of that. I demanded that music be played during this forced march and to my surprise the Rock Chick said, “Ok but pick something everybody likes.” Damn… how was I going to do that?

My stepdaughter’s musical taste, and I must admit like her mother she was a big music lover, was more pop-centric. Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera would be more likely her choice than say, Janis Joplin. She had some hip hop, but I wasn’t going there, even I blanched at some of the language. This was a true quandary. I felt it was very important that I teach this child about rock and roll. I assumed that was the reason I was brought into her life in the first place. The pressure was on. I went to my albums and began to flip through them. I came across The Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper” and probably because of all the bright, primary colors thought, “this will work.” Almost as soon as the needle dropped into the groove I could hear the loud groan coming from the women in the house. I had always thought the Beatles were universally lovable but perhaps since no one at the house was on LSD that day, “Sgt Pepper’s” wasn’t going to work.

I tried something else, I can’t remember what and my stepdaughter shot it down too. I was starting to get nervous. First and foremost I had to clean the house which sucked. Now I was getting heckled at the stereo by a ten year old. It was then that I came across the fantastic greatest hits compilation, “Legend.” It was going to be risky to put Bob Marley on, this could be my third strike… I decided to pin my ears back and go for it…

While it is impossible to incapsulate an artist as tremendous and huge as Bob Marley on one disc, I have to admit “Legend” is one of the best “Greatest Hits” compilations out there. It covers songs from his earliest Island Records days from “Catch A Fire” and “Burning” all the way to his last recordings. It was an odd choice to listen to while cleaning the house but I knew it’d be OK with the Rock Chick. I had hoped her support would carry the day.

It was a mere 10 seconds into the first track “Is This Love” when my stepdaughter’s head started bobbing… during the break between that song and “No Woman No Cry (Live)” my stepdaughter came to the stereo where I was dusting and said quickly and furtively, “Who is this?” I glanced down and her eyes were open widely. She was feeling this music. “His name was Bob Marley, and he’s awesome.” She whispered, almost inaudibly “I really like this…” There is no greater satisfaction than turning someone onto an artist or a song. Let me restate that – the only thing greater than turning someone on to a song or an artist or an album – is turning someone you love onto great music. I felt a welling sense of pride as I had expanded this young, 10 year old girl’s universe that day.

It was a beautiful couple of hours that day, although I’m not going to lie to you, cleaning the house sucked. But the music was great. And in some ways, that afternoon and that musical connection that I made  with my daughter was the crack in the door – the initial opening that allowed us to bridge our mutual contempt and distrust. Suddenly we had something in common. I began to realize and perhaps really really believe for the first time – Music IS Love!

I had the joy, two summers ago, of taking my daughter to see the Stones in concert. She absolutely loved it. I couldn’t help but think back to that Saturday afternoon, she and her mother and I grooving around the house to the best reggae ever, Bob Marley. I’m not a model parent. I was truly the Evil Stepdad. But if you invest and you share your life and experience, sometimes… it all turns out good.

“Oh, Yeah, all right, we’re jammin’…” I may have to drink some rum tonight…..

Cheers!

Metaphysical Wisdom: The 1986 Ozzy Concert, The Preacher and the Pot Smoker

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It’s rare that you find any “Universal Wisdom” at an Ozzy Osbourne concert. Somehow, in the 80s, I managed to do so.

It was 1986, right in the heart of the 80s, when a group of friends and I loaded up in the car and drove from Manhattan, Kansas down to Wichita to see the Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne, in concert at the Kansas Coliseum. We were especially excited to see the Oz-man in Wichita because the arena had “festival seating,” where you show up, line up at the door, and when the doors opened, you sprinted as fast as you can to get a seat near the stage, or better yet, get to the open area in front of the stage. I saw Van Halen in Wichita once and actually stood right in front of the stage, hanging on to it for dear life. God Bless Eddie Van Halen, but as usual, I’m off topic. The opening band for Ozzy was some dark metal band we’d never heard of, Metallica, but that’s another topic. We didn’t fight to get down to the stage but found some nice seats on the lower deck, really close to the stage.

This being the 80s there were a lot of stimulates among the pirate crew I’d journeyed to the concert with. We were drinking a lot of beer that day, which could be said of most of our days at the ol’ University. As the old song goes, “for it’s not for knowledge that we came to college but to drink beer while we’re here…” We had a rule when road tripping, not a very smart one, that you had to have a six pack for each person in the car at all times. (Don’t Drink and Drive kids, it’s a bad idea.) I was with several herbal enthusiasts as well. I’ve always been a fan of dark, murky fluids and was never a smoker but I’d probably list myself as a “pot sympathizer.” You enjoy your vices, I’ll enjoy mine. For some reason we had a bunch of black beauties with us. I was never big into stimulates, but speed was always prevalent at college, especially during finals. If you needed to stay up cramming, rather than drink a pot of coffee, take a black beauty or a “No Doze” and zoom, you’re up. Soon we realized it was fun to take one with beer – one foot on the gas, one foot on the brakes. We were so riled up by the heavy metal and speed, we were on our feet, high-fiving like amateurs and sloshing beer all over. Even before Ozzy came on, the poor high school kids in front of us politely moved off to find safer seats. We were young Vikings on a quest for Heavy Metal Valhalla.

Finally, after playing louder, faster, louder, faster these dour guys calling themselves Metallica (how did we not realize what we were seeing, perhaps it was the beer?), left the stage and after a short intermission to remove Metallica’s white-cross cemetery stage set, a giant Ozzy Ghoul descended from the rafters. The stage prop was designed to look like the cover of his latest album, “Ultimate Sin.” The arms/wings of this Ghoul opened up and sitting on his throne was Ozzy, in all his glory. He leapt out of the chair, launched into “Bark At The Moon,” and didn’t stop moving all night. We went bonkers. I think at one point I may have actually barked in the general direction of the moon…Ah, youth.

Ozzy had had an up and down decade. He’d started his surprisingly successful solo career with the legendary guitarist Randy Rhodes but then Randy was killed in a freak airplane accident. Ozzy had finally recovered and pulled a new band together with Jake E. Lee as his new lead guitarist. Jake was with Ozzy that night and while he was no Randy Rhodes, he held his own. The man could “shred” as the kids say. The song “Shot In the Dark” was our favorite and we went appropriately insane when Ozzy played it. “Never Know Why (We Rock)” was another highlight because let’s face it, Ozzy was right when he sang “they’ll never know why we RAWK!” By the time Ozzy played “Paranoid” as the encore, we were certain we’d reached that Heavy Metal Valhalla we had been seeking.

We slowly began to file out of the Kansas Coliseum to find the car when, in the midst of the exiting metal fans we saw a giant cross. I couldn’t help but wonder what the heck was going on, was this more Ozzy theater? It was then that I heard the Preacher’s voice over the loud speaker, decrying the “Evil” that we had just been a part of. The 80s were a weird decade. Ronald Reagan was President and it was “morning in America.” Out of nowhere Heavy Metal and hard rock came under siege from religious groups. Ozzy and his fellow Metal buddies, Judas Priest had been sued for their dark music being wrongly considered to cause suicides. You had the PMRC, the Parents Musical Resource Committee (or was it Center), led by the uptight Tipper Gore who was attempting to censor rock lyrics. For me this all reached it’s apex when my mother went so far as to warn me that Rush was Satanic, “Ruled Under Satan’s Hand.” Sigh. Ozzy in particular seemed to like to goad these “enemies of rock” as we dubbed them. The Ghoul on the cover of his album and the LP title “The Ultimate Sin” seemed to be aimed right at his religious critics.

Apparently inspired to respond, this Preacher had set up a giant cross in the parking lot and had a bullhorn he was shouting scripture through, along with extended diatribes about why we were all going to Hell for attending an Ozzy show. I never thought nor do I think the music you listen to can condemn you to a life of eternal damnation (unless you listen to Wham) but sure as shit, this guy was telling us it could. My friend SB and I stood at the edge of the crowd that had assembled around this guy, merely for amusement purposes. The guy was really into it, screaming into his bullhorn and foaming at the mouth. Most of the Ozzy fans around him were chuckling and a few had the temerity to make fun of the guy. I was worried the Preacher might stroke out in front of us and we were going to need to clear out of there pretty quickly if that happened. I never liked to hang around when the cops showed up.

It was then that a diminutive kid in the hard rock uniform: jeans, concert t-shirt and flannel shirt over it, came forward to ask a question. “Excuse me, Sir…” The Preacher looked stunned and frankly a little joyful that someone had paid close enough attention to ask him a question. Most of the concert goers were merely walking past him. The intrepid Pot Smoker then posed this metaphysical question to the Preacher, “So, if God created the natural world, and pot grows in nature, doesn’t that mean God put pot here for us to enjoy? I mean, doesn’t that mean God wants us to smoke pot?” My mind was blown. Unfortunately for the Preacher, I think his mind was blown too. He didn’t have an answer. The stunned look on his face betrayed his confusion. He began to sputter and stutter into his microphone…The crowd was hanging on what his response was going to be. After what seemed an eternity, the Pot Smoker turned and walked off toward his car. He was pretty sure, as we all were, that the Preacher couldn’t answer that “Big Question.” When the Pot Smoker walked away, the Preacher suddenly composed himself and muttered unconvincingly, “He doesn’t want an answer, look, he’s walking away…he doesn’t want an answer.” Like the rest of the crowd, I just shook my head and we headed to the car. Game, set and match for the Pot Smoker. As we walked to our car, I could hear the Preacher bellowing through his loudspeaker again and maybe it was my imagination, he seemed to have lost a little of his vim and vigor.

I felt like I’d walked away from that great concert a little smarter about the universe and how it works. While I’m a bourbon man, I certainly don’t think a little pot and a lot of heavy metal is gonna send anybody to Hell or anywhere else. I know I realized that night that you should never allow a judgmental individual or group to influence your behavior or your listening. As long as you’re not hurting anybody I say, go for it.

It’s a dark ride folks. Find someone you love, put on some good music and enjoy yourselves.

Cheers!

Playlist: The BourbonAndVinyl Election Day Playlist To Relieve Election Fatigue

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And I ain’t no communist
And I ain’t no capitalist
And I ain’t no socialist
And I ain’t no imperialist
And I ain’t no democrat
And I ain’t no republican
I only know one party
And it is freedom  

– “I Am A Patriot” – Little Steven

I think I speak for everybody in America and beyond, no matter what your political persuasion, your political party, right or left, when I say, I’m tired of this Election. I am suffering and have been for quite a while now from Election Fatigue. Just once I’d like to watch television and during the commercial breaks see a wacky local car dealer who mistakenly thinks he should be in his own commercials. Or I’d like to see a commercial for Cialis with the couple sitting in adjoining bath tubs holding hands, which I’ve never really understood, if you’re on Cialis shouldn’t you be sitting in the same bathtub (the guns loaded, you need to pull the trigger)? Who would have thought I’d miss those commercials? All I see these days is point-counterpoint. I often see opposing politician’s commercials in the same break. Politician A accusing Politician B of being a traitorous bastard only to have the next commercial accuse Politician A of being the real traitorous bastard. None of this shit gives me a very positive vibe. I don’t know exactly when we became such a divided nation, but it appears to be getting worse.

Putting all the bile aside is becoming increasingly more difficult. I have stopped watching the news altogether, it’s too depressing. I am just pleased that in a mere five days, this great National Nightmare will be over. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely lucky to have been born and raised in a free, democratic country. The fact that every four years the populace is allowed to stand in line and go to the polls for a peaceful transfer of power is one of the greatest things on the planet. Not only is it a great thing, it’s a God damn inalienable right. But as much as I love Democracy, it took a whole lot of bourbon to get me through this one.

Well, if you’re like me, although I’m five days early, the only thing besides bourbon that’s going to get you through this negative, spiteful election is rock and roll. I’m not a political person per se. I vote, I always have, in every election from Reagan to Obama. I’m not tied to any party, I’m just looking for the best guy at the time. I like to think of myself as a hedonistic, moderate, centrist independent who enjoys fermented liquids and loud music. Although to the right I look like a communist and to the left, well I don’t know what I look like to them. I am genuinely concerned about the state and direction of my country.

In reaction to this Election season B&V put together a little play list with tunes that I feel should be taught in high school Political Science classes. The lessons may not sink in, but what a fun class. There’s not strident stuff here. In music I always lean a little more to the hippy, freedom, peace thing. I feel like peace and freedom is something both sides in this quad-annual tussle can agree on. And if you can’t agree on that, you probably aren’t a B&V reader in the first place. As usual, my play list is all over the place – loud/quiet, metal/acoustic… The Rock Chick is probably right, I shouldn’t do play lists… So if I’ve missed any of your favorite Political Science songs, please make suggestions in the comments. I’m always looking to expand these things.

  1. Alice Cooper, “Elected” – What better place to start than some manic hard 70’s rock and it sums up what the goal seems to have become.
  2. Little Steven, “I Am A Patriot” – My favorite song about politics. Jackson Browne does a great version as does Pearl Jam if you can find it on one of their live bootlegs.
  3. Jimi Hendrix, “Freedom” – That’s what it’s all about.
  4. Warren Zevon, “Disorder In the House” – “Helicopters hover over rough terrain,” great guitar solo by Springsteen.
  5. CSNY, “Stand And Be Counted” – Great hippy voting anthem.
  6. Ozzy Osbourne, “Civilize The Universe” – Ozzy’s plea for world peace & one of the Rock Chick’s favorites.
  7. The Cult, “Wake Up Time For Freedom” – From the great ‘Sonic Temple’ LP.
  8. Green Day, “Revolution Radio” – “I wanna revolution, I wanna hear it on the radio.”
  9. The Doors, “Five To One” – “They’ve got the guns but we’ve got the numbers.” I almost went with “Peace Frog,” which is funkier.
  10. Credence Clearwater Revival, “Fortunate Son” – Also love the Dead Daisies cover of this one.
  11. The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” – We probably will be…
  12. John Mellencamp, “Hard Times For An Honest Man” – Amen.
  13. Bruce Springsteen, “We Take Care of Our Own” – Damn right we do.
  14. Fitz & The Tantrums, “Dear Mr. President” – One for the kids…
  15. Jackson Browne, “For America” – I always liked this track.
  16. Bob Marley & The Wailers, “Get Up Stand Up” – I could have included half his catalog…”Them Belly Full But We Hungry” springs to mind… I settled on this one.
  17. Sam Cooke, “A Change Is Gonna Come” – One of the greatest songs of all time.
  18. Little Feat, “A Apolitical Blues” – “The telephone is ringing, if it’s Chairman Mao, tell him I can’t talk right now.” Van Halen with Hagar did a great cover of this too.
  19. Pete Townshend, “Give Blood” – “Give blood, but soon you’ll find it’s not enough.”
  20. The Beatles, “Revolution” – There’s also “Revolution #1” for you more acoustically minded folks.
  21. Neil Young, “The Campaigner” – “Even Richard Nixon has got soul…” Did he? An acoustic gem from Neil.
  22. John Lennon, “Give Peace A Chance” – My hippy side is showing through…
  23. The Vaughn Brothers, “Tick Tock” – Stevie Ray with his brother Jimmy and a plea for a better world before the clock runs out. God we miss Stevie Ray Vaughn.
  24. Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth” – A little something for the paranoid.
  25. John Mellencamp, “Love And Happiness” – One of his best hard rock, political songs.
  26. Bob Dylan, “Political World” – Yes, I could have put all of Dylan’s first three albums on the list but I was trying to stay away from the acoustic guitar/harmonica stuff.
  27. John Lennon, “Imagine” – Well, you knew this was going to be on here.
  28. The Eagles, “On The Border” – “I’m just tryin’ to turn this water to wine…”
  29. The Clash, “Know Your Rights” – Something everyone should know.
  30. Randy Newman, “Political Science” – The funniest song ever written about geopolitics.
  31. Marvin Gaye, “What’s Goin’ On” – What the Hell is going on?
  32. Jackson Browne, “Lives In the Balance” – I double dipped on this record, one of my 80s favorites by Jackson.
  33. Bob Seger, “Long Song Comin'” – Great song about a blowhard politician. I can’t listen to one more speech.
  34. Cream, “Politician” – “Get into my big black car,” sounds more like a threat than an invite…
  35. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Things Goin’ On” – “‘Cause there’s things goin’ on that you don’t know.” Great obscure track from their debut album.

If this track list isn’t to your liking, put on something that you do like. Season to taste, as they say. We all need a little music these days. If the Election doesn’t break the way you want it to – celebrate Veteran’s Day (aka Armistice Day) on Nov 11th like my pal Drummer Blake, by playing some loud rock and roll (Although in Blake’s case he’s actually playing the instruments not the radio, like me). At least Veteran’s Day is something we can all agree should be celebrated.

These are dark times… pour something strong and turn it up loud… Cheers!

My Fever Dream: Dark Days, A Hopeful Wedding And A Glimpse To The Future

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I love the fall. As the Red Hot Chili Peppers once sang, “autumn’s sweet, we call it fall, I’ll make it to the moon if I have to crawl.” Autumn is usually sweet for me. It’s a time for football and breaking out the dark and murky fluids… it’s my bourbon season. Even the holidays are great. Halloween is always fun (hello to all those Naughty Nurses out there and sincerely, thank you all) and who doesn’t love Thanksgiving. All I have to do on Thanksgiving is show up eat, drink too much and watch football. Besides Saint Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving is the PERFECT holiday.

And yet this year I’m feeling more of the grim determination of the second part of that Chili Pepper’s quote, “I’ll make it to the moon if I have to crawl,” than my usual autumn joy. It’s been a bit a tough year this year. Things are pretty grim at the office… lay offs and more threatened. I’ve been traveling almost all of October for work and as usual have had my annual bronchial infection that knocked me on my ass. Perhaps it’s my illness that has me down. With the exception of going out west to see my wonderful daughter fall has been a drag.

I must admit that a lot of this dark juju I’m feeling stems from this year’s Presidential Election. I think I speak for everybody who isn’t a cable TV news commentator that I’m suffering from “Election Fatigue.” My wife, the Rock Chick won’t even watch the news any more. Dark pronouncements, anger and contention is really getting to be a drag. Even the local commercials are full of bile, lies and accusations. It’s like being in the middle of a divorce trial. Why is daddy yelling “wrong” at mommy, if you get what I mean. I’m not a political person per se. I never talk about religion or politics, but it’s just been impossible to avoid this year. It’s really set a dark vision of the future.

Against that back drop, my oldest and dearest friend Jack’s eldest daughter got married last weekend. I was honored to have been invited. I know that it makes me sound like a sentimental sap, dressed in a fluffy robe, clutching a half-empty bottle of Maker’s Mark, singing “Send in the clowns, there oughta be clowns…” when I say this, but I do love weddings. I was always that guy people called when they had an extra slot in the wedding party. “We need an extra usher… let’s call Ken, he’s fun… but keep him away from the Vicar…”

This particular wedding last weekend was a beautiful, hippy-esque ceremony, and I mean that in a good way. The ceremony was held outside under a copse of trees on a beautiful Indian Summer day. It was cloudy and a beautiful breeze pushed the leaves around. A gauzy tapestry of green and lime hung behind the make-shift alter. The groom danced down the aisle with a smile that lit up the park. They were playing a rap song I vaguely recognized (Hey, I’m a Stones guy…give me some slack) and there was a palpable sense of joy. It felt like the trees were dancing along with him in the breeze. Jack’s daughter looked glowing in her beautiful gown. The vows were beautiful and emotional. What can I say, I was moved. I felt something for the first time all fall, and frankly for the first time in a long time. I felt a glimmer of hope.

Weddings have always been hopeful affairs in my mind. The joining of two people into one couple, the merger of two disparate families. The wonderful ceremony where friends and family join to witness and consecrate the union. The joy emanating from the couple and their families is always contagious. I’m not a religious person, but weddings and funerals do bring about a spirit of community that’s possibly akin to religion. Despite all the horrible shit that’s happening in the world, these two kids, bravely and beautifully standing up in front of everyone they know, holding hands and vowing to share their lives together felt almost defiant in their hope. And that in turn, gives me strength.

I began to think of the Rock Chick and my future. Our daughter isn’t too much younger than Jack’s eldest. They knew each other slightly when they were growing up. I couldn’t help but wonder what the future holds for my daughter. She’s smart, educated and a hard worker. I don’t worry about her at all. But as I watched this new couple wed last weekend I wondered what that’ll be like when my own daughter gets married. As a step dad, my role in the wedding will likely be largely ceremonial, like paying for stuff, but it’ll be a life changing event. Then, inevitably there will come grandkids some day. I’m hopeful that’s a long way off. I was extremely immature when I married my wife (not that I’ve changed much since), and I like to say my stepdaughter and I grew up together… but grandkids? I’m not old enough for that yet…

I know a lot of people who are into this whole “grandparent” thing. They call themselves P-Paw or Nana or G-Maw… I want none of that shit. My daughter has always called me by my first name, Ken. I’m cool with that, as I never intended to supplant her dad. My vision of being grandparent, and this may seem odd, is based on the movie Cool Hand Luke. I don’t want my future grandkids to call me Grandpa, I want them to call me by the name I deserve – Boss Ken. I envision myself sitting in a big rocking chair out by the pool, straw hat on my head and mirror shades on, a large tumbler of bourbon that I’ll call “Boss Ken’s iced tea” in my hand. The children will call out to me things like “movin’ on into the pool now Boss Ken,” or “getting some water now Boss Ken.” They’ll whisper to each other things like “Don’t cross the man with no eyes…” like George Kennedy did. They’ll wonder why Boss Ken’s iced tea smells like gasoline. For their rapt obedience I shall reward them by teaching them about rock and roll. They’ll learn all of Jimi Hendrix’s catalog. I’ll sit in my rocking chair and say things like, “Wha, wha, what we have here is a failure to communicate. That’s the way this chirren wants it, well he gets it… he’s in timeout.” I’ll have to work on developing a southern accent.

In turn, my wife, who is the most elegant woman I know, should be called “The Duchess.” I think that’s better than Nana. I can see my future grand kids asking their mother, “Do we get to go and see the Duchess this weekend? She always has presents and baked goods for us…but is Boss Ken gonna be there? He said we were going to have to listen to something called “Goats Head Soup” this weekend… that doesn’t sound good.”

Oh yes, Boss Ken and the Duchess… this does give me great hope for the future and it has a nice ring to it. I can see it all so clearly now….Maybe it’s the excess of cough syrup I’ve been drinking.

It’s a long dark ride people. Keep your friends and family close and as always, Cheers!

The BourbonAndVinyl Worst Cases of LSD – Lead Singer Disease

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David Lee Roth in New York City on January 7, 1985. (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)

I remember the dark summer when it was announced that David Lee Roth had left Van Halen. My buddy Matthew was up in summer school at Kansas State University and he drew a VH flag at half staff on his chalk board. It was the end of an era. Perhaps it was the end of innocence, the end of the good times. It was our first “big” band break up. I mean, we were too young for the Beatles and while the Stones bickered they were smart enough to not “officially” break up. It’s important to always leave the door open, and the Stones knew that. We should have seen this VH split coming. After all, Roth had put out the miserable EP “Crazy From The Heat” and had done a series of “wacky” videos. This was hubris like we’d never seen before in a singer. Rod Stewart had had a solo career with the Faces, but even he balanced it better than Roth had. When the announcement of Roth’s departure was made, Eddie Van Halen was quoted as saying something like, “Yeah, Dave just had the worst case of LSD so we parted ways.” At first I thought Roth was doing acid, which would explain a lot but then I found out that LSD was “Lead Singer Disease,” a malady which is sadly very prevalent in rock and roll.

I looked up LSD in the Urban Dictionary, and I think it sums it up pretty well:

“The tendency for the lead singer of a rock band to become egotistical and impossible to work (with).  

There are a number of factors that can contribute to the onset of LSD including; a natural tendency in the singer to act like a prima donna and treat other people like shit, the level of fame and fortune the band manages to achieve (whether deserved or not), how quickly the band goes from being dirt poor and unknown to filthy rich and overly famous, and whether or not other members of the band have enough talent to compete with the singer for the public and the media’s attention. 

LSD is often fatal… …for the band. Once a singer develops LSD there is very little hope of them ever recovering from it. 

PLAIN ENGLISH VERSION: Lead singer’s disease is what happens when a lead singer lets the success of their band go to their head, starts acting like he or she is god and begins to demand that everything be done their way. If they don’t get their way their inflated ego makes them think that they don’t need the other band members and the band splits up.”

 Having seen Guns N Roses this week with Axl Rose, it naturally led my thoughts to LSD again. Often times the press focuses so much attention on the lead singer of a band the megalomania that sets in is simply unavoidable. How could you not think of yourself as “a golden God” when the rest of the world treats you as such. I can’t imagine how big these guys percentage of groupie action is… but I assume it’s high and that always clouds your judgement. What all these guys seem to forget, which was so eloquently put by Joe Strummer of the Clash who said, “Never underestimate the chemistry of four guys alone in a room.” That was four guys people, not one guy with a fucking microphone.
So without further adieu, here is the B&V selection of the Top 10 Victims of LSD. There are, sadly, many more examples, but these are the most egregious.
1. Axl Rose, Guns N Roses – Axl will always hold the crown for LSD. Even his recent triumphant reunion shows won’t blot out his crimes. The guy took what might have been one of the greatest bands of all times and smashed it to pieces. Who would run off Slash? Slash is not only talented as fuck but he’s a laid back guy. This band should have stayed together for ages and saved rock and roll but instead Axl fired everybody, got fat and went insane. Or, insaner.
2. David Lee Roth, Van Halen – Dave, Dave, what went wrong? Roth looks like someone pithed him now. He’s dead behind the eyes. So many years spent in the wilderness that didn’t have to go down that way. VH was the perfect rock band, the heirs of Led Zeppelin when Dave’s ego took over. It’s probably the saddest case of LSD on here. Even a couple of solo albums with the virtuoso guitarist Steve Vai can’t erase all of this.
3. Steven Tyler, Aerosmith – WTF happened to Steven Tyler. He went on reality TV and now he’s doing a country album, which is a worse sin in my book. Joe Perry would be justified to brain him with is guitar.
4. Vince Neil, Motley Crue – At the height of their popularity, right after Dr. Feelgood, Vince decides he’s the star. He didn’t write any of their music, so I’m unclear as to what the thought process was there… of course this was the 80s and cocaine was pretty prevalent… it must have been pretty powerful stuff. He released his crappy first solo album, and he even had a decent song, “You’re Invited But Your Friends Can’t Come” but then he shows up in the video with see-through mesh pants on and a shirt that looked like a dress… the horror, the horror.
5. Roger Waters, Pink Floyd – Technically Waters wasn’t really the lead singer of Pink Floyd. I’d give that tag to David Gilmour. But Waters was such a titanic asshole, and wanted to be the lead singer so badly, to prove he was the genius, he gets on the list. He wanted complete creative control and then fired Rick Wright, the keyboardist, because he wasn’t contributing enough. Which way do you want it Roger? His hubris was such that he thought when he quit the band would end. Gilmour and the rest of the guys carried on without him and Waters sued them earning himself a spot in the douche bag Hall of Fame.
6. Sting, The Police – If you were to look up megalomania in the dictionary, it’s likely you’ll see Sting’s picture. Either megalomania or “pretentious” either word applies. I knew this guy was done as soon as he got the nose job and took a part in the movie “Dune.” He ditches the Police and recorded a series of shitty jazz-influenced albums. I’m not smart enough for jazz but neither is Sting.
7. Bono, U2 -I love U2 and Bono…and he didn’t cause a break up, but his attempts to save the world, while admirable, have hurt the creativity of the band. It doesn’t take a genius to solve U2’s problems – “Uh, Edge, turn up the guitar…” If only Bono was paying attention…All politics are local… focus on the band Bono…
8. Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac – After ending her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham, and becoming “The Mistress Of a Generation,” (my title for her as she worked her way through several bands including Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and possibly the Heartbreakers) Stevie decided to strike out on a solo career. Again, I must ask, have we learned nothing from Rod Stewart on how to juggle this? Her ego got so big she made Fleetwood Mac do a country song on “Mirage.” These days the Mac are poised for a return with Christine McVie but Stevie is so focused on reviving her solo career she can’t be bothered.
9. TIE: Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins and Courtney Love, Hole: Both these seminal 90s Grunge Rockers turned into Axl Rose-like control freaks. They fired everybody else in the band yet continue on as the Smashing Pumpkins and Hole… it’s more like they’re glorified tribute bands. You can’t get rid of everybody and still be the same band.
10. Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin – I’m not putting Plant on this list because of anything he did during Led Zeppelin’s reign on top the rock world. I’m putting him on this list because he steadfastly refuses to get back together with Page and J.P. Jones. Even Pete Townshend said, “Robert would make a lot of people happy if he’d do it…” Jesus, Robert, throw us a bone. Led Zeppelin ’17… fuck yes, I’m down for that tour!
If you’re out there in a rock band somewhere, and you’re lucky enough to have the talent and balls to find yourself with the microphone, remember it’s the guys behind you that are more important than the crowd in front of you…
Cheers!

Summer Drinking: The Food Center Liquor Store, Brookline, MA

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“Time is a jet plane it moves so fast” – Bob Dylan, “You’re A Big Girl Now”

I was texting with my drummer friend yesterday. He’d read my review of the RHCP’s new song, “Dark Necessities” and had reached out. Like me, he’s a huge fan of bands with strong rhythm sections like the Who, Rush, Rock Garden and of course, the RHCPs. Give me that bottom. He was complaining about the overly-produced sound of the drums. I have to admit that Danger Mouse put so much polish on the record I can almost see my reflection in it, but I still love the song. It’s in high rotation here at the house. He then mentioned his band had a gig that night, and said, “It’s almost like summer, man!”

Ah, summer. It always makes me think of Boston and the Food Center Liquor Store, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

There’s nothing better than summer drinking. And while I have to consume some bourbon today (I’m working on a “deconstructed” mint julep, straight bourbon from the bottle with a peppermint in my mouth) for the Kentucky Derby, the world’s greatest sporting event, when summer comes it’ll be time to put away the dark liquors and heavy beers. Time to dust off the vodka lemonades and the Blue Moon. I would suggest buying stock in Ketel One immediately, they’re about to have a sales surge. When summer comes to the Midwest the entire region opens like a flower.

This time of year always takes me back. It’s not only summer’s arrival, but the fact that it’s graduation season takes me back to my own college graduation.  At the time, I took all the money I’d been gifted for graduating and bought a ticket to fly to Boston to join my buddies Matthew and GP who were both living out there. Matthew was in Law School and GP was peddling soft drinks. I had somehow convinced GP to move out there with me…I’m not sure he’s forgiven me yet. My corporate overlords didn’t need me until September, so I thought, “What the Hell, why not?” Once I arrived in Boston and got myself ensconced at the apartment the three of us shared on Commonwealth Avenue, I immediately spent the rest of my Graduation Money at the used record store two blocks up from us, “In Your Ear.” I found all the Faces records on vinyl I’d been searching for in that used record store and I can close my eyes and still see myself standing there, mouth agape at my “huge” discovery. Unfortunately spending all my money on used albums wasn’t going to sustain me for the summer in super-expensive Boston.

Matthew and I went to the local grocery store on the outskirts of Brookline, the birthplace of JFK, and after watching Matthew fail while hitting on the beautiful, Hispanic store clerk, I noticed a “Help Wanted” sign on the window of the liquor store adjacent. My reduced circumstances made me bold and I strolled in and inquired after the opening. I was told the job was in the “other store,” two miles away, in the main village square of Brookline.

The next day, I set off on my adventure to find the Brookline Food Center Liquor Store. I walked for what seemed like forever until I finally spotted it, situated on a main street, next to a police station which I regarded with suspicion at the time. I strolled in and a man with sunglasses on (while inside) and a 70’s porno-star mustache was behind the register. I introduced myself and asked about the job. Being from Kansas, I had always thought I had no accent at all. Apparently to this hardened, Boston liquor store owner I sounded like I’d just wandered in off the plantation in Mississippi. He probably couldn’t delineate between Mississippi or Missouri as I was to find out later… He smiled at me and immediately started on my accent… “You ain’t from around here are you (it sounded like “ah yoo”)? You from down South somewhere?” I told him I was from Kansas and that was suddenly my name, “Kansas.” I asked again for the job and he replied “Uh, Ok Kansas, you uh, wanted for anything criminal? I got cop friends, I’ll know so don’t fucking lie to me.”His Boston accent was so thick I struggled to understand him. It took a while to adjust (he kept saying Food Center as Food Centah). It was an odd interview question. I replied that I had no record and I wasn’t wanted for anything criminal… well, nothing that would stick. “Ok Kansas, welcome to the Food Centah, you start (staht) tomorrow, be here at 3pm.” I had a job!

The next day, and really for the rest of the summer, it was my job to show up at the liquor store and a) stock the beer fridge and b) take the Massachusettes 5 cent beer can returns. The man with the mustache who was named Doug but referred to himself as “Uncle Chico” explained it to me my first day. He took me out of the cooler to the front of the beer display. We stood a few feet back and he said, “Kansas, look at that, do you see any gaps in the beer coolah?” There were none. “Thats how I wanna see my coolah from now on, no gaps.” I was literally responsible for walking into the cooler and pushing six packs forward so people could easily reach them. Every now and again, I’d get busy with beer can returns and I’d hear, in that thick Boston accent, “Kansas, Kansas?” and I’d run out to the store floor from the back cubby hole where we took returns and he would always say, when he was upset about the beer cooler, “Do you love Uncle Chico? Do you love Uncle Chico?” There was only one reply, I’d mumble “Yes, I love Uncle Chico…” “Then, uh, Kansas, will you do the fucking beer coolah, I see gaps.”

There were a group of guys that I worked with, salt of the earth guys, Kenny, Wardy, and Matt. The guy who was the night manager was named Murph. One was an artist, one was going to be a cop and one of the others was always looking for a construction job. People always speak of folks from the East being cold or stand-offish but those guys embraced me almost immediately. I have to admit they asked me if I grew up on a farm, I was from Kansas after all. I had to explain I didn’t grow up with a cow in my yard. I used to tell them the only thing different between Kansas and Boston was that in Kansas everything was in black and white and here in Boston everything was in color. They liked the Wizard of Oz comedy…

These guys went out drinking every night. The liquor store closed at 11pm and everyone on the shift was allowed to drink one beer of their choice. It was where I really developed a taste for good beer – not this American piss that passes for beer here – but good, exotic beers from far away places. That one beer after shift usually led us to the bar across the street. After the first couple of nights drinking with these guys, on a Tuesday night, I demurred when Matt asked me where we were gonna get beers later. He looked stunned when I said I was just gonna walk home. “Kansas, what the fuck are (ah) you talking about? It’s summah (summer)… you drink… you know, with your friends.” It was wisdom I carry with me to today. It’s what I always think of when I think of summer drinking. I was embarrassed I’d been so stupid and said “no” and at the same time I was honored that these guys had already accepted me as a friend. Although, I must confess they continued to ask me if Kansas was in the South… apparently I had an accent I was unaware of and they don’t teach geography in the Boston schools.

Now, here I am, all these years later and I’m on the cusp of summer. Another summer has snuck up on me. I’m not sure where all the time went… It slips away, people. Dylan was right, “time is a jet plane.” I’m happy, with a great family and my job now doesn’t entail pushing six-packs forward to the sound of “do you love Uncle Chico?” Although I have to admit, pushing six-packs forward was a lot more fun and it didn’t keep me up at night…

I always try to remember the wisdom of the Food Centah…. And, I hope you all will remember this wisdom folks – “It’s summah (summer), you drink beer, you know, with your friends.”

Cheers!