Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I ran an 8K (4.97 miles) Saturday, that was nice considering that two turkey trots near my sister's house on Thanksgiving filled up before I could sign up. Came across this one quite by accident -- I'd gone to the park to run and saw them setting up mile markers, then happened to encounter representatives doing packet pickup at a local store afterward, where I signed up.

It was a nice cool but not cold morning to run, and the course wound its way through the woods around a lake. I started near the front and got off to a fast start thanks to my 11 year old niece, but kept up the pace even after exhausting myself only a little ways in. I lost my sense of time and distance easily and completely. I didn't see a 2-mile marker and so when I approached the next I could have sworn it would be 4 miles but no, just 3. They said there would be water at Mile 4 and so I drank it and went into my final mile mental state, only to encounter the actual mile 4 marker a quarter mile ahead. Devastating! The last mile was nearly all uphill, and struggling there I lost a spot to a guy I'd worked very hard to pass, then found the last bit and passed him by, energized to see a clock at 38:something. That's not bad for me from what I usually pace (and it turns out my only other race at this distance, a 41: something on Thanksgiving in 2008. 38:36 it was. Good run.

Monday, November 21, 2011

High Hard One

At Target yesterday I let Heidi go shop for whatever we actually needed so I could occupy the boy and get an idea of what he'll want from Santa Claus. We started by checking out the baseball bats in the sporting goods section.

He's 5 and won't start Little League until the spring but he absolutely loves playing Whiffle Ball with me out back. For a while this summer he was so singleminded about playing baseball each evening I'd actively begun seeking out alternatives to save my beaten-up legs for running. Legos? Play-Doh? Soccer? TV?

On the shelves beneath the baseball bats was a combination batting tee and automatic pitching machine. "This is good," he said. "I can play when you're not around."

Let's move on to the toys, I told him. I'm not ready for that day yet.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Charming and Dangerous Guy

Of the three acts on the bill at the Bell House Saturday night I'd have guessed Robyn Hitchcock possessed the best chance of blowing me away but in the end that honor went to John Wesley Harding, with a strong runner-up to Scott McCauhey of the Minus 5, and this in a show that I didn't even know was going to include Peter Buck.

Robyn Hitchcock
Forgive all my ignorance. Until a few years ago, when on-demand streaming changed my life, acts like these, with the exception of Buck, flew mainly on the periphery of my radar, and as a result this show wasn't a place you'd have found me. Sneaking in a few hours of catch-up listening mornings at the office has provided some thrilling revelation and for me at least has led directly to ticket sales. Unlimited streaming -- I do mine at Rdio -- ought to be a boon for live shows and the formerly obscure but I suspect much has to do with the appetite of the streamee. Either way, it's been an eye- and ear-opening development and had me excited for a solo night out.

Hitchcock came out first and did almost all of the Eye album solo (a few songs accompanied by a harmony vocalist). Eye is almost all acoustic anyway, and doesn't vary a whole lot in style which I guess is one of the problems with these 'album' shows, though he warmed the crowd to it by talking about the period in which he wrote the songs with customary charm and humor. If it isn't quite as distinct as I Often Dream of Trains, Eye at times is beautiful and evocative and Hitchcock did it justice. Before he finished McCaughey, a drummer, and, holy fuck, Peter Buck, came out and they played a few Venus 3 tunes including Ole Tarantula. Fun way to end.

During the break I repositioned myself at the side of the stage right next to Buck's guitar stand and pedals. I was close enough to have given him a hand job for the rest of the night. The 'Minus 5' (Buck, McCaughey, and the slide/lead guitarist, bass player, piano player and drummer from the Decemberists, though that makes six) variously played their stuff and were John Wesley Harding's backing band.

Buck stayed in the background playing his 12-string, providing the jangle but not a lot of fireworks. He did bust out the mandolin for a few. He referred to handwritten cheat sheets on the floor with the charts of all the Harding songs.

Harding, with Buck
McCaughey, and especially Harding were very lively and fun. Harding played almost all of his new album, which I've been listening to a lot recently and was recorded with most of the same players. His stuff is clever, funny, erudite poprock for aging urban douchebags like me (and him -- when he talked about his 5 year old at home, I totally related). He pulled off the solo singersongwriter stuff and the lead rock vocalist stuff with aplomb: If he at all was intimated following a genius like Hitchcock (I'd have been) it did not show even a little. McCaughey just likes to play you can tell. Their drummer was great, and also sang harmonies. It's worth noting here that all five who impressed me (Harding, McCaughey, Hitchcock, Buck and the drummer) had grey, greying or white hair.

Eventually Hitchcock came back out, along with his boy vocalist, then Eugene Mirman (I'm vaguely aware of who he is, some kind of comic?) and then another guy got a pop who turned out to be Ted Leo, who still has yet to meet my listening acquaintance. A friend said Michael Stipe was at the show as well but not on the stage (I'd have noted that). By the end there was about 11 or 12 people up there (singing McCaughey's 'Aw Shit Man'), I'd been standing for five hours so I was happy it finally came to end but a fun night for us old people and good rock for my $.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nowhere is far Enough Away

Here I'm trying to write for 10 or 12 minutes straight while my wife puts the boy to bed and before I go running. This pretty much is exactly why I make so little time to write, my day doesn't allow it. But I'm going to see how it goes because I need to get into the habit. I can't even worry if it's any good.

The girl upstairs has been practicing the electric guitar. Same song over and over. But good for her. Her folks had a rough split up not long after we moved downstairs from them. Her dad is not allowed past the fence in front of the property but you could tell when he came how bad he missed his girl as a result of the split. She was maybe 9 or 10 years old and used to scream a lot. Her dad doesn't come around much anymore, not that I've seen. Her Mom appears angry much of the time. I feel bad for all of them, they are Polish immigrants like a lot of our neighborhood. Having a horrible divorce in a foreign country has got to be an unsettling experience.

So maybe what you do is give your young teen daughter a guitar and amp and let her go to town. I thought for a long time she was playing Sheryl Crow's 'Leaving Las Vegas' but realized halfway through writing this it was 'You Shook Me All Night Long.' She did the solo pretty well.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Desert Island Mix Tape

The Desert Island Mix Tape was a game I came up with as a means of forcing myself to consider and/or reconsider music that I heard when I was young, to see which my opinions actually stood the test of time and examine the work outside of the influences they arrived with (namely the radio station that played it, and what friends, girls, and Rolling Stone wanted me to think). Before long it had become a way to immerse myself in the stuff I absolutely despised as a kid and consider what if anything could redeem it.

The concept of course was a riff on those lists they used to include in the back of Pulse magazine: List the 10 albums you'd take with you to a desert island. Now, well it's all well and good to come up with such a list, it's really just a means of expressing your good taste and ego and doesn't really say all that much about anything else. Ultimately it's a gigantic bore.

Besides, if you're going to be stranded on a desert island, you're going to suffer a little. So the Desert Island Mix Tape asks you to consider the repertoire of every artist and from it choose one song that must accomapany you for your eternity of solitude. It makes for some hold-your-nose-and-select choices but that's the point. Nobody said being stranded on a desert island was going to be fun.

So that's what that's about.

This blog at one time was supposed to be a home for that -- I can't believe the first post was almost 2 years ago -- but I'm not certain the world is ready still. (is there a poll feature on blogger? I will check). What this should be is a place for me to write everyday, a habit I've too long neglected while working a real job, dealing with a wife and kid, trying to be runner, watching every Mets game and goofing off every minute on the internet, including an awful lot of reading what other people are writing. Here I think I'm going to write a little about music, a little about my family, a little bit about baseball, movies and TV, and food, and maybe not.

Here's a song on my tape. I absolutely hated this band and everything they stood for, but at 1:30 tell me he doesn't do an incredible Sam Cooke.