Sunday, September 30, 2012

No. 613 – My Girl

Performer: The Temptations
Songwriters: Smokey Robinson, Ronald White
Original Release: Single
Year: 1964
Definitive Version: None

The first wedding that Laurie and I attended together after the crucial first one (story to come) was of her friend Paul, who was one of the first people I met when I first visited Laurie.

He was marrying his longtime girlfriend, Leila, in June 2007 at the Racquet Club of Chicago. It probably was the ritziest wedding I’ve attended. The place, which is located on the Gold Coast for a reason, is so exclusive that its website doesn’t even let you get past the home page without a membership number. (Check it out.)

Let me pull back the curtain a bit. The ceremony was performed in a west-facing drawing room that had floor to ceiling windows. After that we adjourned for cocktails in an even more massive sitting room that had about the largest fireplace I’ve seen. You could stand in it (when a fire wasn’t roaring, of course).

To the side of that room was a glorious study that was filled with important ancient books, and here is where they set up the open bar. James, a mutual friend of Paul and Laurie’s (and another person I met early, because they all performed in the play Laurie was in when I first visited her), took a picture of me and Laurie in the study. Laurie keeps it on her desk at work. I’m in a suit, and she’s in a dress. The sunlight is filtering through the trees into the window, and we appear as though we’re in Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. (Yeah, I know which one I was. Let’s move along.)

The reception was held in the adjacent ballroom, complete with sit-down dinner (I had the steak AND the fish) and live band. This was one of the first songs that was played after the dance floor opened up to everyone. Laurie and I had to dance to it.

We had a great time. At one point, Laurie and I snuck off to wander around and see more of this incredible building, but we got lost and ended up walking around the hallways of rooms where people could stay. I had a momentary thought of sneaking into one of the said rooms for a little reception of our own, but I thought better of it. Maybe next time …

Anyway, the party was going apace and the free wine was flowing. I was in the study talking with a member of Paul’s family about my work when Laurie came in and announced it was time to go by knocking over a glass of wine on the bar.

She had me drive, which was a big deal. Laurie used to have a thing about letting anyone else drive her car. I had to drive it from Wisconsin in 2006 to get home for work, but she never let me drive it otherwise. In fact, I think the night of Paul and Leila’s wedding was the first time she let me drive it in Chicago when she was with me. She’s since gotten over that, but that night, practicality outweighed insecurity. I was fine, relatively speaking.

So we’re on the Lake Shore heading home, and we’re about at Montrose, which is a mile before our exit. Suddenly, Laurie announces that she’s going to be sick. I zoomed down the exit ramp at Montrose and pulled over at the stop sign, but as soon as I did and she opened the door, I noticed a cop parked to the right of us at the intersection at the bottom of the hill.

So did Laurie. I’m OK, she said. Keep going. I asked if she wanted to me to pull off at the next exit, but she said she was fine. And she was. She didn’t get sick at all, either in the car or at home. It was like seeing the cop and knowing that we certainly would be pulled over for DUI focused her mind.

It worked out for us, but, unfortunately, it didn’t work out between Paul and Leila. Paul is now on wife No. 3, but I’ll always associate this song with that night with my girl.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

No. 614 – Mountain Jam

Performer: The Allman Brothers Band
Songwriters: Donovan Leitch, Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Jai Johanny Johansen, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks
Original Release: Eat a Peach
Year: 1972
Definitive Version: The Fillmore Concerts, 1992, because it wasn’t cut in half, like it was on Eat a Peach

For the second-longest song on this here list—and the second one I won’t finish on a one-way half-hour trip to work—I should have an appropriately long post, right? Well, it won’t be, but it’s not too short.

In yesterday’s blog action, Debbie and I were headed in Maine. Today, Debbie and I were in Maine—two years later. No, that wasn’t the world’s longest traffic jam on I-95, just different trips. (See? With enough padding, you can make anything as long as you want it to be.)

Anyway, as I mentioned, Debbie and I loved our first Maine experience so much that of all of the “we have to get back there” locations, Maine was first on the priority list. Because we had more time this time—a long weekend—we could do things we hadn’t done last time, such as take a whale cruise, as I mentioned. We also drove up to Acadia National Park, which I’ll get to in a second.

One other thing we could do was just hang out at Ocean’s Gate in Southport. We noticed a pingpong table was set up in the grass to the side of the driveway, and Debbie announced that she loved playing pingpong, which was news to me. I like it, too, and it was cool to be out there amongst the trees, having no low basement ceiling to curtail smashes. I’m pretty sure Debbie didn’t appreciate that facet as much.

When we returned the paddles at the end of our play, the owner told us about an osprey that built a nest at the end of the cove where their inn was located. Debbie wanted to see it, so we went from pingpong in the woods to a canoe paddling out to see the osprey nest.

We saw the osprey briefly. Debbie was hoping to see chick heads poke up from the gigantic nest that was perched atop a cove beacon, but she had no such luck. Still it was fun to do those things before heading in to town for the inevitable lobster dinner at the Rocktide Inn.

The next day we got up fairly early to a beautiful blue sky to drive up to Bar Harbor and Acadia, stopping along US-1 whenever the mood struck. The park itself was OK but little that you can’t see anywhere else along the coast of Maine—maybe a bit rockier and hillier.

We climbed Cadillac Mountain, and that was scenic, but I was bugged by the clouds that were starting to form on some of the outcrop islands—wisps of white that clung to the tips and made it less appealing to a photographer. In fact, a fog seemed to be rolling in. By the time we headed to Bar Harbor, the sky was gray.

Bar Harbor is nice, I guess, but touristy. I liked that, because people who go on vacation in Maine typically go to Bar Harbor and Acadia. They bypass Boothbay, which makes it far sleepier—and better. Debbie and I had dinner at a nondescript place and headed back just as it began to rain.

And by rain, I mean a monsoon. There was no wind, just huge raindrops coming straight down in a deluge. It was as though someone turned on a faucet instead of a shower. Before long, it got so I could barely see as I drove along the unfamiliar, winding, poorly lit two-lane road—slowly, to account for the lack of clear vision. And whenever I came behind a truck, that kicked even more water on my windshield with nowhere to pass until it mercifully turned off the road.

When we got to Rte. 27 to head to Boothbay Harbor, I was overjoyed. The rain continued to come down, but the excruciating part of the drive was over. I was pretty whipped, so we just headed back to our room.

The torturous rain didn’t diminish our ardor for Maine one bit. And as we headed to Boston the next day, we began to make plans for our third visit.

Friday, September 28, 2012

No. 615 – Marquis of Spades

Performer: Smashing Pumpkins
Songwriter: Billy Corgan
Original Release: Zero Single
Year: 1996
Definitive Version: None

After we left Cooperstown on our New England odyssey in the fall of 1996, Debbie and I headed for the coast. Boston was next on the agenda.

As we got closer, I decided to take a side trip to Rhode Island. If you want to hit all 50 states, you have to make it to Rhode Island at some point, of course. But Rhode Island isn’t like Delaware. Delaware is conveniently located so if you drive from New York City to Washington, D.C., you go through it. I stopped for gasoline in 1991, so that counts.

Rhode Island is a bit more of a commitment. You don’t have to drive through it to get from New York City to Boston, and on that same 1991 trip (details to come), I went through Connecticut and turned north from Hartford into Massachusetts, bypassing Rhode Island completely.

But I had more of an agenda than just merely passing through. I thought we’d drive to Newport, which was supposed to be cool. Debbie liked the idea, so we veered a bit from our agenda. All we had to do was arrive in Boston that night. It didn’t matter when we arrived.

We got to Newport late in the afternoon due to some pretty heavy traffic on the two-lane highway from Providence, and we proceeded directly to the Cliff Walk, which Debbie knew about. It was a path along the shore and took you past all of these mansions that were built by the titans of the Gilded Age.

Honestly, to call those houses mansions would be a bit like calling the Sears Tower a building: They fit the basic definition of the word, but it didn’t do them justice. These bordered on castles, and each one was bigger and more opulent than the last. In fact, one was so massive it had been converted to a college with no change to the exterior.

We couldn’t make the whole hike, because the path was under construction and the sun was setting, but I was able to take a picture of the house they used for The Great Gatsby (the Redford version). Afterward, we stopped at a bar downtown for a quick bite and agreed that it was with regret that we couldn’t stay longer. It was another location that we left for “next time.”

We spent only two nights and one day in Boston, so, of course, we didn’t have time to see a game. (I had already done that anyway.) Instead we did the whole historical tourist thing, starting early in the morning at the tall ship the USS Constitution before making the walking tour of the North Church, Bunker Hill and the area where Paul Revere’s house still stands. I’d already been to Philadelphia, so seeing Boston made for a nice American Revolution bookend.

We finished our walking tour downtown at the Commons and had a drink at the Bull and Finch Pub—aka, the Cheers bar. I snapped a picture of me holding a foamy B outside for Scott, who was a huge fan of the show.

I don’t recall our dinner that night, but I remember the lunch that day. While we were making our walking tour, we stumbled upon a restaurant in the Little Italy section, near to the Revere house, called Florentine. We had incredible lobster ravioli for lunch. That was a nice warmup for the next destination in our journey: Maine.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

No. 616 – Entangled

Performer: Genesis
Songwriters: Steve Hackett, Tony Banks
Original Release: Trick of the Tail
Year: 1976
Definitive Version: Genesis Archives No. 2: 1976-1992, 2000

Everyone knows how the Internet has transformed music, TV, shopping and porn, but one thing that has been overlooked is no less profound, at least from my perspective: The days of pompous, unscientific sportswriters are gone.

Sure, a few troglodytes, like Tracy Ringolsby, still lurk about, but for the most part, sports writing is more advanced. It has to be, because now there are any of a hundred sites doing insightful baseball writing that are one Google search away. And mainstream writers are reading those sites as part of their work. The fact that Miguel Cabrera might win the Triple Crown but not the American League MVP shows how far the discussion has moved.

Baseball writers used to drive me nuts. Twenty years ago, the smart people were those connected with organized baseball; the fans were unwashed, stupid masses who needed the expertise of the baseball writer to get them to see how things were.

And then there were the things that they wrote that were patently and demonstrably false. They’d write endlessly about how teams that won were the teams that won the one-run games even though it was more often the teams that won blowouts that were better. They’d write that pitching was 75 percent baseball even though hitters always got paid more. They’d write that the guy who drove in the most runs was the most valuable player, even if he used up twice as many outs as the guys getting on base in front of him so he could have people to drive in.

And they’d write that the players were greedy, that the owners weren’t in it for the money but merely trying to provide entertainment to the fans. And they’d write that of course Pete Rose bet on baseball. Look at the evidence. Have you read the Dowd Report? Neither have I, but let me tell you, pal. I know this guy, who once saw Pete Rose at a bar and …

It drove me nuts. After I found Bill James in 1983 and my view of baseball forever changed, I never took anything on faith anything I read in the papers or heard on radio or TV. You have to convince me, and they weren’t doing it.

The tipping point, as I mentioned, was the Jim Gray interview of Rose in the 1999 World Series. That interview triggered so much fallout, and almost all of the commentary was that of course Rose bet on baseball, but geez louise, did Gray have to be so darn nasty about it?

Well, pal, I read the Dowd Report, and it’s damning only if you accept it all on faith, as the baseball writers of the time were more than willing to do. I pointed out the bogus betting slip that seemed to indicate that Rose had no idea where his played on a given night. There were other problems (all of which, of course, have since been rendered moot, but go with me here).

I had had enough. Folks needed to hear the truth about this and other things—or at least a different viewpoint and one that was grounded in facts. Thanks to the Internet, some schlub with money and time to burn could create his own world in the online universe. And in February 2000, I began work to become that schlub.

The occasion was Laura’s 50th birthday. She held it upstairs at Lindey’s in German Village—the restaurant where I stopped when I was looking for an apartment after moving from Flint in 1994. Everyone was there, and by everyone, I mean EVERYONE—Debbie, too. It wasn’t the first family function to which Debbie had been invited since the rift was repaired, but it was the most significant.

I already had the idea for the Website and the name——now all I needed was a webmaster. Scott knew more about computers than anyone I knew, and I figured his rates—nothing—would fit my budget. As the party began to wind down, I pulled Scott aside. I had something serious to talk to him about. We stepped out on the second-floor balcony in the chilly winter night.

How hard would it be for you to learn HTML? Scott thought for a second. Not much, I bet. Good, here’s what I have in mind …

I laid the whole thing down, and he liked it. He wanted to get back into working with computers, and starting a website from scratch seemed like a perfect excuse to do so as well as be something of a working lab for him. He said he’d poke around and get back to me in the next week.

Debbie and I left soon after that, earlier than I wanted, but certainly after the main business of the evening had been concluded, as far as I was concerned. I wanted to launch on my birthday, and all systems were go. The truth would finally be heard.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

No. 617 – Miss You

Performer: The Rolling Stones
Songwriters: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards
Original Release: Some Girls
Year: 1975
Definitive Version: Steel Wheels Tour, 1989

I was very into the Rolling Stones for a very brief time—in 1989, right at the time I moved to Grand Blanc. Sometime not long after, they broadcast one of the shows from their Steel Wheels Tour over the radio, and I recorded the whole thing. It was a pretty good show, and I was very into Steel Wheels, so I was listening to this tape a lot in the days leading up to Christmas.

Another thing I was doing was trying to find things to do to occupy my time. One of the towns south of Grand Blanc, which itself is south of Flint, is Holly. Holly, at least at the time, was trying to become a Brown County or a Galena, Ill., for those of you who are familiar with those areas. In other words, it was trying to be a quaint center of antiquing and bed and breakfasts.

The results at least back then were hit or miss, but I liked driving down there and going through the stores. Some stores had some cool stuff, and some had nothing but junk.

By 1991, I probably stopped going to Holly at all, but in the early days of my Flint tenure, I went there a lot. My favorite store was shaped like a large U, and the quality of the merchandise declined as you moved farther away from the entrance. The coolest thing they had was a Quartermaster’s desk, which essentially was a desk for two people. It was nice … and expensive—$1,800, which at the time was as far out of my league as a single-A scrub is from the majors.

A lot of stuff in Holly was like that. I almost never bought anything, because it was always too expensive. One time I bought this leather-bound cigar box, which was perfect for hauling around my best baseball cards.

Anyway, shortly before Christmas 1989, I was invited to a party at the apartment at one of the Journal reporters. I drove down in a light snow listening to my Stones bootleg tape, looking forward to having a good time and maybe meeting a few people closer to my age.

The party was a bust, at least for me. None of the guys I had attended a Northwestern football game with at Michigan State soon after my arrival was present, and I don’t mingle easily.

Early on, I made a lightly mocking comment to the party host about a work issue, and she took way more offense than I certainly thought the comment merited. (I later learned this wasn’t unusual behavior on her part.) That broke up the group I was in, and for the next half-hour I was confined more or less to the sofa by myself. So I split.

But the truth is I wasn’t really in much a party frame of mind. Sara, from whom I had had a somewhat revealing and disappointing parting when I left Herald City, had started calling me. I knew that there was no way this would work out given I lived 6 hours away now, but you know how it is when the sweet siren song of the impossible finds your ears. I suddenly wanted what I couldn’t have.

And then Sara went and invited me to come over for dinner at her place on Christmas that year. What’s that about a siren’s call?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

No. 618 – Breakerfall

Performer: Pearl Jam
Songwriter: Eddie Vedder
Original Release: Binaural
Year: 2000
Definitive Version: None, although the version from the 8-21-00 bootleg is pretty close. Why? Because I was there.

After I crack off a long entry, like yesterday’s, I want to follow up with something shorter. It all depends on the song, and fortunately, this one cooperates a bit. I could relate another story my trip to Alaska, but I’ve already told the best two, and who really wants to hear about me buying a set of nesting dolls that were made in Russia (which I couldn’t see from Juneau, by the way)?

So, yes, when Pearl Jam decided to release their bootleg series of live albums from every one of their 2000 shows, I couldn’t wait to get the one from Columbus, which I attended. It was, save for one song on Rush’s Different Stages, the first time I found a live recording from a show I saw.

The concert was at the late, great Polaris Amphitheater, in August, of course. It would be my third Pearl Jam show and Debbie’s first, so she was as geeked to see them as I was. I had pretty good tickets, which is to say we were in the pavilion.

One benefit of working at The Dispatch was that it had a superhigh-speed LAN connection to the Internet. I always went in on the weekends when concert tickets went on sale, and I never had any problems getting in and getting decent seats.

The day of the concert was a great summer day, not too hot, and, better, no rain in the forecast. They started with this song, which was a bit surprising, because 8 times out of 10, Pearl Jam starts with something slow to warm themselves up. But there was no warmup that day, just blast off and shoot into the sky. Laurie said later that this song sounds like a great call to arms, and I can’t disagree.

(By the way, for what it’s worth, I think Binaural is their best album after Ten and Vs., and I think I’m probably the only one in the world who holds that opinion.)

The concert was fairly choppy. Eddie must have botched the lyrics to a half-dozen songs, which was interesting, because if you look on the back of the Bootleg, it has the Binaural Evolution Symbol, which indicates that the band thought it was a great show. I asked Doug when I learned he was going to interview someone connected with the band to ask why they thought it was great, given Eddie’s performance. I was just curious, but I never heard back on that.

Anyway, what probably was my favorite part of the show was that it was a Pearl Jam fan’s show. They played a lot of obscure (but not too obscure, alas) material with the notable absence of any songs from a particularly famous album until the very end.

This, as you can imagine, vexed the drunk d bags in the crowd, several of whom were right behind us. Apparently they showed up ONLY to hear songs from the said album. And their plaintive cries were heard after every song from, well, pretty much this one on: “Bring out the Ten!”

Finally at the end, Pearl Jam did, and the best part was that the only Ten songs they played were Once and Porch, two of the lesser ones. In other words, no Alive, no Even Flow, no Black and certainly no Jeremy. Undoubtedly the said d bags staggered off grumbing into the night, but that’s the way it goes with Pearl Jam. They never play the same set twice. You pays your money; you takes your chances.

Monday, September 24, 2012

No. 619 – The One Thing

Performer: INXS
Songwriters: Andrew Farriss, Michael Hutchense
Original Release: Single, Shabooh Shoobah
Year: 1982
Definitive Version: Live Baby Live, 1991

This was the one song I wanted INXS to play when I saw them in 1991, but they didn’t. Fortunately, they included it on their live album, which came out later that year, so they did play it at some point, just not in Detroit. That’s the way it goes.

It also doesn’t quite fit the timeline of what I’m about to relate, but I certainly knew the song at the time. There’s an 800-pound gorilla in the room that I’ve been ignoring until such time as I no longer can. Now is that time.

I heard an incredible interview of Mike Neismith of The Monkees many years ago on Steve & Garry, where he was talking about Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon and how each constantly was fretting about the quality of their music. The message was that it’s far easier to have a clear vision of something when you’re not too close to it.

And so it was between me and Mom. I don’t know which summer it was—1984 or perhaps 1985, most likely, but certainly before 1986. But Beth nailed it on the head one day, and I’ll never forget it.

We were at the Condo, and I can’t remember whether Mom was gone, which I seem to recall, or just asleep in her bedroom. We were sitting on the sofa in the living room next to the staircase and opposite of the fireplace, which in itself was unusual. The TV was in the den, so that’s usually where we were.

But Beth had something on her mind and wanted to ask me a very serious question. It was so serious that she got up from the sofa and walked towards the dining room just in case her question offended me. She spun around and asked, “Is your mom an alcoholic?”

Until that moment, I would never have associated that word with Mom. I mean, alcoholics were big-time boozers who had a flask of hooch in their back pocket and were constantly stumbling around drunk. Mom never drank anything besides beer and she didn’t seem to be constantly stumbling about.

That said, she slept all the time and kept odd hours when she was awake. Increasingly as time distanced us from the divorce, her hours got odder. We would go a week or more and not see her at all. Dinners were infrequent, and Scott and I had to fend for ourselves quite a bit. That was no problem because I was often with Beth and Scott was with friends. Or we were at Dad’s.

Also, Mom didn’t have a job and seemed to have no interest in getting one. Taking care of us kids, she would say, was her job. She also seemed to have no interest in anything aside from watching TV, reading her paperbacks and smoking, of course. It got so about the only time we’d see her is when she came out of her bedroom or we went in.

She also wasn’t much for cleaning and her personal appearance had gone down the tubes. She drank only beer, true, but she drank a TON of beer. She’d buy three cases a week and be done with them by the next. (She drank Busch, and to this day, I’ve never had a Busch beer and never will.)

In high school, I was part of a carpool with three friends. Mom was always an afternoon pickup driver, and one day she was late—exceedingly late.

Usually, class ended and the parent awaiting to pick us up would be there, gather everyone up and be gone by the time the buses pulled out of the parking lot. This time, the buses were long gone, everyone else was long gone, and the four of us still were standing around.

I went inside to call Mom from the pay phone and got no answer. I went back out and still no Mom. It was at this time that I heard one of my friends say derisively, “Willie’s Mom …” I didn’t hear the context of the conversation (and yes, I was known as Willie when I was younger), but I knew that Mom—and by extension, I—was being mocked. At that moment, I was so embarrassed by the fiasco that I didn’t feel up to defending her. I went and called again … nothing.

We then called one of the other moms, who came over right away. When I got home, Mom was still in her bedroom. She was awake, sitting at the end of the bed as if she were finally about to leave only to find out she didn’t need to. She apologized for screwing up and said she was sick. Well, Mom got “sick” a lot back then; this was just the most memorable.

I knew the nature of her illness instinctively, but it took Beth’s question to bring the clarity to the situation, and the effect hit me like a stinging slap across the face. Of course, she was an alcoholic. That’s why she acted the way that she did. She wasn’t sick; she was drunk and passed out.

“Oh my God! She is!” I cried at the sudden realization and my complete lack of clarity, and Beth, seeing there was no offense to be taken by her serious and personal question, returned to comfort me.

Obviously, the follow-up question must be: What’s to be done about this? Well, I’d be damned if I knew. I suppose the first order of business was to talk to Jin and Scott about it.

Jin, of course, lived with Dad, so she wasn’t affected by it much. By this time, she didn’t have much of a relationship with Mom. Scott, however, still lived at home, although after Matt was born in 1984, he started spending a lot more time at Dad’s, too, when I wasn’t around.

Scott was so laid back that Mom’s alcoholism didn’t seem to affect him, or at least I wasn’t aware that it did. (I was gone most of the time even when I was home.) However … he had more or less taken over the rec room in the basement. It had a bed, and Scott used it. It was as far as one could be from Mom’s bedroom and still be in the same home.

That wasn’t a coincidence, as I soon found out.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

No. 620 – Deja Vu

Performer: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Songwriter: David Crosby
Original Release: Deja Vu
Year: 1970
Definitive Version: None

At the time my parents began to go through the arduous process of the dissolution of their marriage—and I began to go through the arduous process of attending junior high school—CSNY and all variants were No. 1 on my playlist.

It was at this time that I discovered this song. When Dad had been in charge of the living-room stereo, he always played Side 1 in his stack. After he left, and I took charge of the stereo, I decided to flip the record over.

It was only after I got older that I understood why we had to move from our house, because I sure didn’t understand it at the time. My parents’ dissolution—they went that route instead of a full-blown divorce, which Mom later regretted—had been finalized in February 1977, and we still lived in the same house we had since moving there in 1972. Why do we have to move now?

The why soon enough became beside the point, so I started getting into the search. We looked at houses and condominiums. I had two requirements: I wanted it to be near where my friends lived, and it wanted it to be cool.

I gave a big thumbs-down to one house we looked at that was near the Kingsdale shopping center. It was a split-level on a corner lot, and I not only would have had my own bedroom, but also the room was on a lower level and I had my own door to the outside.

But it looked too much like a generic house for me, and I’d be in a totally different neighborhood from Marty. As I mentioned, we were inseparable during this time, and I felt as though I couldn’t be without my compadre. I don’t know whether my vote had anything to do with it, but we passed on the house, which, of course, I later regretted when the advantages of having a separate unmonitored entrance and exit became all too clear.

Soon after that we looked at a condominium on Carriage Hill Lane, which was maybe a quarter-mile from where we lived. It was only slightly farther from Greensview School, so Jin and Scott wouldn’t have to change schools, and I’d be close to Marty. The living room and staircase were open to the second floor, and it had a loft off the main bedroom. Now that’s cool. And I wouldn’t have to cut any grass—a big bonus as I was in the process of honing my laziness.

The drawback was I’d have to share my bedroom with Scott. There certainly were worse things than that, so I signed off on it. Just before the school year mercifully ended, we moved to our new home—the Condo.

Until further notice, the Condo was where I lived the longest—almost nine years. It also, without question, was the setting of the most family tumult. I thought when we moved there, the crazy period of our lives—our parent’s divorce—was over. It turns out, it was just beginning.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

No. 621 – Heroes

Performer: David Bowie
Songwriters: David Bowie, Brian Eno
Original Release: Single, Heroes
Year: 1977
Definitive Version: Live Aid bootleg, 1985. I love the extended band-presenting intro featuring Thomas Dolby (yes, that one) on eerie synth.

I needed a gig for the long summer between Wabash and Northwestern in 1986. I had served three shifts at Food World, and after all of my media experiences in the past year, I wanted to do something different. I tried for an internship, but nothing was available in Columbus, even at the local weekly.

But I saw an ad one weekend for what appeared to be an interesting and profitable venture. I had to show up with a resume at an office building north of I-270 in Worthington. Except when I got there, the office wasn’t an office. It was a room with tables and chairs that was nondescript except for its 1970s style dark wood paneling on each wall.

When I arrived, maybe six other people—men and women, all young and all in suits or dresses, like I was—were already on the scene. One of the candidates was a guy I recognized from Wabash, which I wasn’t expecting, so it felt good to have a comrade in arms.

The interviewer began his spiel, and the nature of the business instantly was revealed. We were to be pitchfolk for a multilevel-marketing outfit in the way of Mary Kay. Our product: knives. I seem to recall that the name of the brand was Chicago Cutlery, except that that’s a mass-retail product, so either I’m wrong or it changed its strategy.

He demonstrated the product, which seemed to be pretty incredible, and said our job was to go and do likewise. We then had to take a quick written test. At this point, one of the women got up and split. I, too, was feeling uncomfortable about this but decided to stick it out.

The interviewer brought each of the remaining candidates into his office one-by-one, apparently to tell us whether we’d be hired. I was one of the first ones to be called in, and he offered me the job (which, I’m pretty sure, now that I know more about those types of businesses, is what he told everyone). He said he would call with more details in a few days.

I left feeling great that I got the gig but a bit creeped out by the whole thing. It seemed shady. When I talked about it with my family and Beth, I decided that it might not be a bad thing. My reasoning was that I wasn’t very good at approaching people I didn’t know—a necessary skill as a reporter, which I was planning on being—and this would help with that.

They were dubious, and the truth is I couldn’t shake the feeling in the back of my head that this was a questionable operation. I soon began to doubt my resolve. I could empathize with the woman who ran out, and I wished I had done the same.

So at this point, I went in to Food World to see Todd. Do you have anything available? Need some help? Not only did he say he did, but he then made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: Would I be interested in being the assistant produce clerk? It was a slight promotion from bagger with a little more money. I’d still have to answer the bell when it got busy enough, but I’d be almost last on call. It also meant early hours—6 a.m. arrival. I took it.

I called the interviewer to tell him of my decision to take a different job, but I got no answer that day, or the next. He had no answering machine, so I couldn’t leave a message. And he never called me back as he said he would at the interview.

I never did hear from him again. That I didn’t made me more confident that I had made the right decision after all—at least until that first morning when I got up at 5 a.m. to go back to work at Food World. Ugh!

Friday, September 21, 2012

No. 622 – Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)

Performer: Squeeze
Songwriters: Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook
Original Release: Argybargy
Year: 1980
Definitive Version: None

From 2003 to 2006, I had almost no extra money for new music, so during that time, I was rediscovering a lot of older things that were floating about here and there. I’d go to visit Scott and take a look at his voluminous CD collection tucked away in a closet and think, oh yeah, I want this one … and this one …

This is one of those songs that I kind of liked when it first arrived but didn't really listen to—or certainly fully appreciate—until this time. I had this one with me when I moved to Chicago and was listening to it a lot during this time.

I didn't have a job when I moved, so looking for one became my full-time job. I certainly had the time for it, but I didn't have the access. Laurie didn't have cable, and I didn't have the money for high-speed Internet. When it came to sending email and doing a little Web browsing, dial-up was sufficient, but for a full-fledged job search, I needed more bandwidth.

I started by going to the local library—the Sulzer—in Lincoln Square. It had Ethernet access, which was instant on and—best of all—free. The problem was the library had only three stations, which were filled often, because it was starting to transition to Wi-Fi, which my computer was incapable of accepting without modifications I was unwilling to make. So, what to do?

The good news was there just happened to be a major university nearby to which I just happened to be an alum who had donated some money to over the years. Surely, I would have access to Northwestern’s library.

I visited on a weekend to kind of just scout around, and although the person at the desk told me that it was just for students and professors—not the general public, even alumni donors—I could go in that day.

But what she also told me was more helpful: If you arrive before a certain time, no one checked for a student ID, so anyone could go in. They just had to leave after a certain time.

Well, it didn't take me long to realize that no one ever checked for identification after the fact. As long as I got to the library before a certain time and just kept to myself and looked like I belonged there, I'd essentially be treated like a student—obviously an older grad student, but a student nonetheless. The only drawback: I couldn't leave the library for any reason until I was done for the day, because I wouldn't be able to get back in if I left. Fair enough.

I suppose the whole library now is Wi-Fi, but back then, a couple of rooms on the main floor—the reference room was one of them—had Ethernet connections ringing the exterior walls. All I needed was a long enough cable, which I brought with me, to reach the outlet while I sat at a nearby desk. A couple of keystrokes, and I was open for business.

For the next six months, the Northwestern Library was more or less my place of work. It was nearly 20 years after I had graduated, and in some ways, it felt as though I’d never left.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

No. 623 – Millenium Blues

Performer: Matthew Sweet
Songwriter: Matthew Sweet
Original Release: In Reverse
Year: 1999
Definitive Version: None

Like a lot of people, I’m fascinated by end-of-the-world scenarios. I’m intrigued by someone else’s vision of what he thinks it will look like. That said, I don’t give them much credence. I firmly believe that most are rooted in both the universal existential fear of death but also the self-centered realization that the world more than likely is going to on without them. Better for everyone to go at once.

Still … perhaps it’s not a bad idea to hedge one’s bets. When Harold Camping a year ago took his followers on the wild goose chase claiming he was able to determine from The Bible the precise date of Jesus’ return—laying aside the specific passage that man CAN’T know it, of course—I went to work that day and happily mocked the world’s continued existence.

But at the end of the Nineties when the talk had turned to Y2K computer-meltdown fears, I … well, I didn’t buy into it. It seemed like a Microsoft-made hoax to gin up purchases of new computers and accrue hours of reprogramming.

I hedged my bets nevertheless. I took the day off from work as a vacation day, and I made my request in January to make sure I got it. If the crap really did hit the fan when the clock over at midnight, Jan. 1, 2000, I sure didn’t want to be at the freakin’ Dispatch of all places. I wanted to be home with Debbie.

As the fateful day approached, it became more evident that if anything would happen, it would be minor. As midnight approached in Australia, Debbie and I were glued to the TV. The nice thing, I suppose, was that if something major DID happen, we’d know hours before it hit here and could take appropriate measures.

Midnight struck and Sydney erupted in incredible fireworks … and nothing more. So far, so good. To me, the only real concern was Russia. There was a lot of speculation that the Soviets hadn’t built in the year 2000 into their nuclear arsenal, but as each hour passed and the sirens didn’t fire up, we knew we were OK. It turns out, all that happened was we rolled over the calendar to a big, scary round number.

I mention this, because we have the next end-of-the-world date coming soon, Dec. 21, 2012. That, you might know, is the day that the world is supposed to end according to the Mayans ... except it’s not. You can find all of this elsewhere, but the long and short of it is all that’s happening is the Mayan calendar is rolling over to a big, scary round number … and the calendar will continue, like ours.

Mayan researchers have found other calendars that refer specifically to dates that go well beyond Dec. 21. (And, come on. It can’t end THAT day. I’ll only be in the 530s with this here list at that point.)

I don’t have a vacation day scheduled for that day. All my paid time off will long have been vanquished before then, but … just in case … I’m not ruling out the possibility that I might call in sick that day.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

No. 624 – You Know You’re Right

Performer: Nirvana
Songwriter: Kurt Cobain
Original Release: Single, Nirvana
Year: 2002
Definitive Version: None

When I joined The Dispatch and for many years after, I was either the youngest member of the copy desk or the only single member—or both. So that made for almost no socializing outside of work. For many years, I had Debbie and my own friends in Columbus, so it didn’t matter. After Debbie and I broke up in 2001, my social calendar opened wide.

Chuck told me that he and a few people from the news copy desk upstairs—most of whom were younger—went to the Thurman Café on the fringes of German Village on Friday nights to hang out, and if I wanted, come on down.

Of course, I had been part of a real tight-knit group—the Sports department—in Flint, and I had missed the camaraderie. At some point, outside friends don’t want to hear about work issues, and they don’t really understand the situation even if they do. But work friends are good for current-events sessions, because they know the situation and dynamics. You don’t have to explain anything.

So I started going, and I liked it. The Thurman is a cool restaurant/bar—very divey but with great late-night food. Chuck always got the potato latkes, and we’d end up splitting a few orders of that and maybe some mozzarella cheese sticks. Later we started getting the pizza, which had a wah-fir-thin crust, as though it were a few tortillas, which I think it was. After a hard night of funneling copy around, that was just the thing to accompany a few beers. (By this time, the JD was long out of my repertoire.)

The Thurman has two rooms. The room that had the front door was mostly empty except for the juke and a dartboard and maybe a standup video game. A couple tables were scattered randomly, but you never sat in that room. Instead, you went into the main room, which had wood booths of various size along the wall by the doorway and the standard bar stools on the opposite wall. The lighting was dark and of the Christmas variety—standard bar fare, just like the décor.

We usually sat at The Dispatch table, so named, because one table had several framed pictures of Dispatch front pages and a few pictures of former workers who were regulars.

Chuck and I, and a few others, took command of the juke on these nights, as I mentioned—shades of my former life at the White Horse. And when this song was added, I played it every time. It was nice to have some new (old) Nirvana, and it made me realize how much I missed the music of the ’90s—the last time I had a late-night newspaper crew.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

No. 625 – Blood on the Rooftops

Performer: Genesis
Songwriters: Steve Hackett, Phil Collins
Original Release: Wind and Wuthering
Year: 1976
Definitive Version: None

When we left our intrepid Christmas shopper, he was looking for the perfect gift for his girlfriend only to find misery and the grim realization that he was no longer in the Christmas spirit.

Yes, my search for a perfume atomizer for Beth was coming up as dry as a good martini. And it seemed that desperate times called for desperate measures. That meant a trip to the Penney’s outlet store.

Penney opened its outlet store on the East side of Columbus while I was a junior in high school, and when it opened, you would have thought no one had ever seen a department store before. It was constantly packed. The first time I went was with Mike, but I was underwhelmed by the merchandise. It seemed to be where your parents shopped, not me.

But if any store in Columbus would have an atomizer, surely the Penney’s outlet store would have it. This was a commitment. The store was beyond I-270, which ringed the city and almost as far away from Upper Arlington that you can get while still being in the Columbus metropolitan area. The trip would kill an entire afternoon, but if it had what I was seeking, it would be worth it.

It wasn’t worth it, and all was for naught.

Of course, in retrospect, I should have gone to second-hand stores, but aside from where I went on High Street with Jin and Scott, I had no idea where else I might find such a store.

I was beat. Yes, I had a few other things, including the big present—some jewelry—but the atomizer was the cherry on top of the sundae. Beth loved anything that looked like it was classy and a hundred years old. It really was the perfect gift.

And it was with remorse that I went into the Esco a few blocks from home, a couple of days before Christmas to get a present for someone else. Did you ever have Esco? It was a weird store. It had a small showroom with a few small things out but catalogs everywhere. You wrote the merchandise that you wanted on a slip. Then a clerk would send the slip back to the back room where someone else would find the item and bring it to you. It was like a call department store.

But what was that behind the counter? It … WAS!! An atomizer!! Pink crystal, too. Oh, it was a thing of beauty, and had I been made aware of the possibilities of the yes-yes dance, I would’ve done it then and there. I would have paid $200 for the item, but I only had to pay $30.

Isn’t that allegorical? You go everywhere to looking for something, and you find it was nearby all along. Being 22, however, I had no time for allegories. Give me the damn atomizer. Ah yes, it would be a merry Christmas after all.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t as merry as it could have been. Don’t get me wrong: Beth loved the present, but Scott came to midnight mass with us and then to the late-night after-party at a family friend’s home, where we were treated to our first Irish coffee. (He was 15.) But that also meant, of course, that he came back to the house where Beth and I exchanged presents, so Beth wasn’t able to thank me as properly as she might have otherwise.

Alas, this time, I couldn’t buy him off with a Twenty. But that’s a story for another time.

Monday, September 17, 2012

No. 626 – Digital Man

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart
Original Release: Signals
Year: 1982
Definitive Version: Snakes & Arrows Live, 2008

I saw Rush for the 13th time last night as I write this (Saturday). It seemed for the first time in at least 16 years that it wasn’t just some variation of a greatest-hits show. The setlist, staging and lighting were all very different from what I’d become accustomed, and it had a purpose. Rush always is enjoyable live, but this was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen them deliver.

This song wasn’t among those played, and I was fine with that thanks to Snakes & Arrows Live, which Dave made a copy of and gave to me … for archival purposes, of course. The package’s arrival provided a brief ray of sunshine on what was at the time a very bleak landscape.

It wasn’t until the following winter that I started listening to it with enough regularity to get into it, particularly the newer stuff from Snakes & Arrows that already appeared on this here list.

Laurie and I decided that we wanted to take another warm-destination vacation in March 2009 when we had reached our limit on cold, yucky Chicago weather. A return to Mexico was a bit much, so we chose Florida.

Laurie had taken a spring-break trip a few years before with one of her friends, and they went to Anna Maria Island, which is just off the coast of Bradenton, south of Tampa. She said it was great and not too crowded, which was essential. The last thing I wanted to do was spend a week surrounded by chotches looking to party.

We scheduled the trip for the last week of March, same as when we went to Mexico. I wanted to go the next week, so I could see a Rays home game and knock another team off my list, but the schedule didn’t work out in our favor. I had have to settle for the beach.

We flew into Tampa early in the a.m. and got our rental car. I noted with some pleasure that we we’re going to get a P.T. Cruiser, which Laurie didn’t like, but I thought was perfect for a beachtown. Dad had a Cruiser while I lived at home, so I was used to driving one. The Cruiser was just your basic small car with a Thirties hot-rod body wrapped around it. Laurie said I could drive.

It seemed like a straight shot out of the airport to Bradenton, where we literally take a right when we get to town to head to Anna Maria Island, which is an island kind of like Long Island is an island—no more than 1,000 feet of water separates it from the mainland, and two roads connect it.

But before we got there, we came face to face with the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. We could see it from miles away, eerily rising from the ground surrounded completely by blue—sky and ocean. Of course, I-275 cuts across Tampa Bay about 4 miles, and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, with its cable-stayed design, is the span. As we got closer, I got a real sense of how high it went up … and how quickly.

This was intimidating, not only because of the actual height and the fact that you have no turn-offs and are surrounded by water, but also because if the wind were whipping into the bay, a top-heavy car, like the Cruiser, could be at the mercy of the elements. Plus, the Cruiser wasn’t a real powerhouse. I wasn’t sure it could make it to the top, let alone me.

So I just kept my eyes on the road straight ahead, refusing to look to the left or right or even out the back. I took it at a regular speed giving extra gas when I needed it and had no problem getting over the top. It was only then that I looked in the rearview mirror at the slope behind me. It looked like a 45-degree incline, even though it wasn’t. Coming down the other side was no problem.

The rest of the drive was incident-free, and we arrived at our destination—the Blue Water Beach Club, which if that doesn’t sound like a primo old-school Florida beach hotel, I’d like you to give me a better name. It was a two-story motel that had all the necessary amenities: a ce-ment pond, shuffleboard, palm trees and a 100-yard walk from our room to the beach.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

No. 627 – Bring It on Home

Performer: Led Zeppelin
Songwriters: Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Willie Dixon
Original Release: Led Zeppelin II
Year: 1969
Definitive Version: None, although they did a blistering version at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in 1995.

The version that Led Zeppelin did at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, which I taped when it aired on MTV, was what got me into this song. So when Debbie I saw Page & Plant in Cleveland in 1995, and they roared straight from the opening number, The Wanton Song, to this one, I was loving it.

Like I said, any argument that this wasn’t really Led Zeppelin we were seeing was quickly cut away by a hail of electric guitar. And when Page went to the theremin in the interlude between this song and Ramble On, Gund Arena blew up. Call it what you want, sure, and, yes, there was no John Paul Jones, but no one in that building was buying into the pretense that they weren’t in fact seeing anything other than the genuine article.

The funny thing was, in all honesty, that show was only the second most exciting thing I saw that night in Cleveland. No. 1 was Jacobs Field, located next door to the Gund (neither of which are what they’re called any more, of course).

The disaster of the canceled World Series in 1994 had morphed into the unthinkable: The Powers That Be were going to try to play the 1995 season with minor-league players and call it Major League Baseball.

I wasn’t having any of it. Like the early part of the Page & Plant show, nothing could persuade me that this was the genuine article, regardless of what the fronts of the uniforms said. Hundreds of ballplayers were going to get their names in the Baseball Encyclopedia ONLY because they decided to scab during a strike and not because they earned it with their efforts.

This was an abomination. But with each passing day in March as the scabs played exhibition games, it also was appearing to be more inevitable.

That isn’t to say there weren’t all sorts of problems. The Baltimore Orioles announced that they weren’t going to field scabs, and Ontario ruled that scabs couldn’t play games in its province, so the Blue Jays would have to play all “home” games in their spring training ballpark. Frankly, it was going to be a train wreck.

But then, on the eve of Opening Day, the travesty was avoided when the striking players won an injunction against the owners due to their perpetual legal hubris—the law doesn’t apply to us. The injunction, granted by now Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (who should have been chosen just for that particular ruling) caused the players to end the strike.

At that point, the owners could have locked out the players and gone ahead with the scabs, but cooler heads finally prevailed. Most of the scabs were fired—no one shed a tear for their fate—and the real players were allowed, if not welcomed, back. The season would start a few weeks late, but it would start with real players, thank goodness.

This all happened March 31. On March 28, the players voted overwhelmingly to end the strike if the judge granted the injunction, which it appeared she was going to do. It wasn’t over yet, but I had a real sense that baseball was coming back soon.

So, when Debbie and I arrived that night to see Page & Plant, we stopped to look, and I felt euphoric. The park looked beautiful: The grass was perfectly green, the bunting in preparation for the faux opening day that now would be used for a real Opening Day added just the right trim of color. At that moment, I pledged undying love to baseball.

The strike? Unlike millions of other fans, I realized that it was all business, nothing personal. All was forgiven, as far as I was concerned. Baseball was back.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

No. 628 – Say Hello 2 Heaven

Performer: Temple of the Dog
Songwriter: Chris Cornell
Original Release: Temple of the Dog
Year: 1991
Definitive Version: None

I bought this album after the Pearl Jam explosion, like most people, I would suspect. But other than Hunger Strike, I didn’t really connect with it at the time—not enough Pearl Jam. It was only years later after I jumped on the bandwagon for Soundgarden—the other half of Temple, of course—that I began to realize what a great album this is.

I was listening to it a lot in 1998 when the first SportsFest was announced. SportsFest was the bright idea of the folks at Krause Publications, one of the two major media of card collecting at the time and who, in my estimable opinion, worked to destroy the industry by playing up the greed aspect to the detriment of the fun aspect. SportsFest came about as the immediate result of the fallout over the shrinking of the National in 1997. SportsFest would try to be what the National was in 1996 when it was held in June.

Of course, I had to go. The National that year was scheduled for Chicago, and Dave and I had made plans to attend that in August. But he couldn’t do SportsFest, so I, being unfettered by young children, went by myself.

I also went without Debbie. She had had a great time at the National in 1997 (story to come) but didn’t think it merited a repeat appearance. Fine with me. I didn’t have to produce any stories for The Dispatch this time, so I could be far more hard core about my purchasing, like in 1996.

I took off in the morning of the first day of the convention loaded with a boombox to listen to my old Steve & Garry tapes (I was in a big archiving mode) and Debbie’s cellphone, which she had bought not long before then for emergency car use only. (Yeah, people didn’t always have them attached to their hands.) I made the 8+ hour drive from Columbus in enough time to get my media credential (my free entry, heh heh) before the press room closed on preview day.

The next day, I hit the show early thanks to the aforementioned credential, and it was immediately clear that it wasn’t quite the same as Anaheim in 1996. The major sports booths weren’t much—just a foamy goalpost for kids to kick field goals and one other football-related thing. I don’t recall anything that was baseball-, basketball- or hockey-related.

But it was a good show. There were lots of deals to be had—particularly at one table where I added a 1957 Rocky Colavito and Roy Campanella for $30 total, which was about 10 percent of their book value.

The most memorable thing that first day took place when I walked through the other end of the convention center, down the main hallway, where they still had SportsFest-related vendors if not actual card dealers. I was leaving to hit a nearby Italian restaurant for dinner, and I needed to go out the main entrance.

I’ll never forget coming to the escalator that led down to the main lobby of the Philadelphia Convention Center and suddenly looking around curiously at the airport-hangar-like décor. Wait … I KNOW this place. How do I know this place? I couldn’t figure it out.

When I came back from dinner—the show ran till 9 that night—and I had the vantage point of looking at the escalators from the ground that I figured it out. This was the setting of the Philadelphia airport that Terry Gilliam used in the climactic finale of Twelve Monkeys, which was one of my favorite movies. The fact that the villain of the movie first releases a virus that kills nearly everyone on the planet at this airport (SPOILER ALERT!) made this a freaky realization.

And that was only the second-freakiest thing I saw in the convention-center lobby that day. The freakiest was seeing Roy Firestone, a famous ESPN interview show host at the time, sing My Love by Paul McCartney on my way to dinner.

There was some VIP cocktail gathering or dinner on one side of the lobby. I assumed Firestone was emcee of the event, and it seemed to be over, because there weren’t a lot of people at the tables, as I recall, but who knows? Regardless, he was belting it out, complete with woahhh woah-woah-woahs and a backing band, and in all fairness, it wasn’t bad.

Now, Terry Gilliam should’ve filmed that.

(To be continued)

Friday, September 14, 2012

No. 629 – Runaway

Performer: Jefferson Starship
Songwriter: Nicholas Dewey
Original Release: Earth
Year: 1978
Definitive Version: None

For most of the first year that we dated, Laurie and I had a long-distance relationship. It was ideal in that we could maintain our separate lives but still have some great times together. The fact that it also because of its nature prevented me from exhibiting some of my more unfortunate early-dating insecurities was a bonus.

But I was no fool. I assumed Laurie had lots of opportunities to date other guys in Chicago. She was going out a lot, whereas I spent most of my free time hunched over a computer working on my research. As far as I was concerned, it wasn’t any of my business if she were dating someone in Chicago, and I honestly didn’t worry about it.

This song resonated with me during this time, particularly the final line. If someone took Laurie from me, I would run away—to Los Angeles, which was the plan anyway. In other words, it was a no-lose situation for me, which might explain why I handled it with a newfound maturity that would have served me well as a younger man. Oh well, water under the bridge.

Early on, an interesting thing happened during one of my visits. We went back to her place one night, and there was a message on her answering machine. When I heard it was a guy, before Laurie could say anything, I excused myself. As I said, it was none of business what she did when I wasn’t around.

I was lying on the bed when Laurie came in, and I just asked, “Is everything cool?” She said it was a guy she dated briefly before we met, who had gone his own way. Now, it seemed he was looking for a bit of a booty call after having not touched base for a few months. I smiled and said, “He’s too late to the party.”

THAT was the correct answer, as she showed me the rest of the night.

As fate would decree, we ran into him a year or so later, after I had moved to Chicago. Laurie and I went to see Tributosaurus become Dire Straits (my least favorite show of theirs, by the way), and he was there. This wasn’t a complete shock, because she had met him through a mutual acquaintance.

He and Laurie spoke for a while after the show—there had been no bad blood or anything like that at the time and certainly none after more than a year—and Laurie then introduced me. I don’t know what he thought about that, but it wasn’t bad for me, because unless he were packing some serious wallet, I saw no competition, which is always good for the ol’ sensitive ego.

We went our separate ways into the dark of night, and I couldn’t resist giving Laurie a friendly jab, quoting one of my favorite movies—Silverado: “You used to ride with that guy?”

That was also the correct answer.