Monday, May 22, 2017

One

It was a whirlwind of a weekend for me, complete with graduation ceremonies, a roundtrip to and from Hampton, VA in the span of 18 hours, a state gymnastics meet (I did really well, and thanks for asking), some lawn grooming, and sadly, a continuing bout of Mexico-related gastrointestinal issues. As a consequence, I didn't really sit down to look at the coverage of Chris Cornell's passing until last night.

Like most men my age, I was pretty into the grunge era. We've talked before about how the W&M Gheorghies of a certain age are responsible for Nirvana blowing up on our campus, so you could argue that we're responsible for the flannel explosion. Hell, we had friends in a band named the Flannel Animals. But while I liked Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and dug Soul Asylum and Screaming Trees (and fucking hated Smashing Pumpkins), I didn't really elevate Soundgarden, even as I appreciated Cornell's otherworldly pipes.

And I don't think I appreciated those pipes until Cornell and Eddie Vedder went voice to voice on Temple of the Dog's 'Hunger Strike'. Vedder's bassline foundation with Cornell wailing over the top? That's a hall of fame vocal.



As I spent a little time listening to Cornell's work, I came across something I'd never heard before. It was recorded live about four years ago, and it's completely unique. To hear Cornell tell the story, he wanted to cover U2's 'One', but when he Googled the lyrics, the words to Metallica's song of the same name were the first things to come up. So he decided to mash up the two. The result, in his voice, is pretty remarkable.



Cornell, Cobain, Weiland, Staley - the leading men of the grunge movement are all but gone. Every generation's leading men is destined to fade away, but this one feels closer to home than most.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Never Forget

This is one of the greatest moments in television history. Enjoy.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Perils of Male Groupthink

Men, it must be said, are the perpetrators of nearly all of history's great atrocities. More specifically, groups of men, thinking as one, are responsible for some heinous shit. The catalogue is too long to give a full reading here, but it spans the spectrum from war to famine to genocide to fraternity hazing. (Not all atrocities exist on the same scale.)

We have President* Trump because the (mostly) men of the Republican Party couldn't see past the confines of their party to call a stop to something that represented a clear and present danger to the future of our country.

Man, to put it bluntly, are fucking morons. And bros are men evolved to their most moronic.

Case in point, the ubiquitous news this week of the rise of the RompHim, a romper for dudebros that, despite my incredulity, seems to actually exist. And not only does it exist, but Reebok is in the process of copying it.

Feast your eyes on these doucheweasels:


We did some immensely stupid, and in some cases grossly misogynistic stuff as younger men. We had a Naked Party, which was mostly harmless, except to our egos. We had a Scale Party, which was harmless in our eyes, and egregiously offensive to our female friends. In retrospect, we were assholes, and I apologize on our behalf.

I look at the fuckmonkeys in the picture above, and I see the worst in modern male culture. I see entitlement, and preening self-satisfaction with a joke that's gotten big enough to get mass laughs.

And I think, there but the grace of God and the span of 25 years go I.

Men. What a bunch of dicks.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Joe Montana is Laughing

Leonard Marshall played defensive tackle for the New York Giants for 10 years, and for the Jets and R**skins for one season each. He went to the Pro Bowl twice, he was named NFL Defensive Lineman of the Year twice, he won the Super Bowl twice (including XXV against my beloved Bills), and he almost killed Joe Montana once.



He recorded 83.5 sacks and 711 tackles. It's safe to say that he had a good career in football.

Like many retired professional athletes, Marshall began a career in business after hanging up his cleats. In particular, Marshall became the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Brand Ambassador for ED Healthcare LLC, a pharmaceutical company that specializes in the manufacture of sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra) to treat erectile dysfunction. To put it another way, Marshall started selling boner pills. At the price of $4.95 a pill! Through telephonic hotlines! He now lives on Prospect Avenue in Hackensack, NJ.

I know this because Marshall filed a complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex County Division, against ED Healthcare alleging that he was fired for telling the CEO that two female employees said they were sexually harassed by one of the EVPs. According to the complaint, the CEO "explicitly stated to [Marshall] that he was terminating [Marshall] because [Marshall] had conveyed the aforesaid sexual harassment complaints to him." Apparently the EVP was particularly terrible to one woman, he allegedly "repeatedly touched her breasts, asked for pictures of her in sleep wear, put his hand up her skirt, and used sexually explicit language ...." This is bad stuff but are we surprised given that this company sells hard-ons? Maybe he was all hopped up on boner pills? Or he was just trying to act presidential?


The plot thickens: "In further retaliation for [Marshall's] protected activity, Defendants cut [Marshall] out of all financial benefits due him from sales of Sildenafil by and on behalf of ED." I bet he isn't the first guy to be cut off due to ED. Marshall also claims that he "suffered and continues to suffer career damage, economic loss, damage to his reputation and emotional distress, as well as physical pain and suffering." I guess selling boner pills didn't damage his reputation? And his 12 year stint in the NFL didn't lead to any physical pain?

In fact, his 12 year stint in the NFL did lead to physical pain as Marshall described in this interview where he advocates for legalizing marijuana. Actually that's not 100% accurate--Marshall advocated for legalizing cannabidiol, a marijuana extract sold by ... wait for it ... a company owned by the CEO of ED Healthcare! It all comes full circle (or maybe it doesn't if you've been cut off from your sildenafil supply).


I suspect that all this and more will come up in Marshall's deposition, and it won't go smoothly. I'll update you as the case firms up.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Recovery

Big ups to the entire community of Gheorghe for keeping the home fires burning while Whitney and I served as our ambassadors to Mexico. Set new standards, y'all did.

Pretty proud of me and the big fella. We dazzled with our erudition during pre-wedding toast festivities, then with our athletic ability during poolside stupid-ball games, and finally with our charm and beer-drinking ability at the reception. So what if I've spent most of the past two days in gastrointestinal distress. Small price to pay.

Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo is a gorgeous place, all rugged coastline and quirky towns. I can see why Andy Dufresne wanted so much to be there. The wedding itself was held at Puerta Paraiso, owned by the bride's uncle, a nine-room inn in a remote area outside of Zihua (that what we locals call it). If anything, the pictures on its website don't do it justice.

We got home last night after midnight (and had it way easier than Whitney, who still had three hours to drive after my head hit the pillow), so I'll be taking it easy for a day or two. But when I'm back to full strength, I know what's on my to-do list.

My man Squeaky sent me an email a week or so ago saying, "Hey Rob, I have a few spare cans of Heady Topper and Focal Banger. What's your address and I'll try to send you some." I resisted the urge to give him shit for having leftover beer (Editor's Note: No, I didn't.) because I didn't want to look a gift pint in the mouth.

And when I got home from Mexico, here's what was awaiting me:


For those scoring at home, that's an Alchemist Beelzebub American Imperial Stout, a Trillium Cutting Tiles IPA, an Alchemist Focal Banger, and an Alchemist Skadoosh American IPA. Four beers from two of America's greatest breweries. I don't know what I did to deserve a friend like Squeak, by I'm going to try to keep doing it.

Looking forward to some rest and recovery, and to reading all the posts you guys wrote while I was away.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Sort of Homecoming, NOLA Style

New Orleans, Louisiana is, in my humble estimation, the most interesting city in the world.

The quintessential hub of culture, music, cuisine, ecology, history, spirits, social stratification, and the allowance of the good times to roll, NOLA leads the world in many categories, including nicknames:
  • The Big Easy
  • The Crescent City
  • The Birthplace of Jazz
  • Mardi Gras City
  • The City that Care Forgot
  • The Northernmost Caribbean City
  • America's Most Interesting City
  • Queen City of the Inland Sea
  • The Gateway to the Mississippi Valley
  • Home of Igors
Igor at Igors
I first was exposed to New Orleans' loins (New Orloins) in the summer of 1995.  I attended my high school buddy Ned's wedding in the Garden District days after Jerry Garcia died.  That weekend we shook it like Sugaree, and I could swear I saw Jerry's ghost among the many apparitions who inhabit the city.  I walked into Igors bar/game room/laundromat on a Friday night about 11, walked out the next morning about 7:30, and nothing was ever the same.

My most recent trip to my favorite city on the planet was last week.  I saw Ned, I took in some more spirits, and I spent indefensible amounts of time in Igors.  Not much changes down there. The multitude of bodily aches I felt as I left town last Thursday included some in my face from smiling and laughing for seven straight days.  God, I love that town.

This monkey could dance
I could regale you with a recap of my week in the sun, replete with culinary (grilled shrimp, fried green tomato, remoulade po-boy at Mahony's; firecracker shrimp at Parasol's; swordfish topped with lump crab and crawdads at Palace Cafe), musical (JazzFest music galore, Rebirth at Le Bon Temps, and so much more), and dipsomaniac (from Cooter Brown's to Pat O's and many in between) memories, but that'd just be rubbing it in.

This was my 17th visit to this fair city and my 10th JazzFest.  There was a stretch from 2009 until 2015 when I never got back there. Terrible idea. I am always reminded of how much I love the place, and that I need annual sojourns there for peace-of-mind purposes.  Join me in the years ahead, won't you?

The last night I was in town (after Fest and conference were over), Ned got us tickets for a show at Preservation Hall.  For the uninformed, I'll let the PresHall website explain:
New Orleans’ Preservation Hall was established in 1961 to honor one of America’s truest art forms – Traditional New Orleans Jazz. Operating as a music venue, a touring band, and a non-profit organization, Preservation Hall continues its mission today as a cornerstone of New Orleans music and culture. Situated in the heart of the French Quarter on St. Peter Street, the Preservation Hall venue presents intimate, acoustic New Orleans Jazz concerts over 350 nights a year featuring ensembles from a current collective of 100+ local master practitioners. On any given night, audiences bear joyful witness to the evolution of this venerable and living tradition.
On this night a few Preservation Hall Jazz Band players welcomed some musical guests into the fold for a one-set tribute to the late, great native son Lee Dorsey.  I hadn't realized how amazing the dilapidated Hall is, how tiny a venue it is, or that Ned had landed us front-row seats.  Close enough that I seriously needed to dodge the trombone (not a euphemism) on many an occasion.

The players were all as fantastic as the backdrop was.  Well-known in musical circles but not thoroughly recognized beyond the region, they were each incredibly skilled; full of smiles, jokes, and stage presence; and in love with Lee Dorsey's gumbo-soaked tunes.

Eric "Benny" Bloom: trumpet
Jon Cleary: piano
Jamison Ross: drums
Roland Guerin: bass
Clint Maedgen: saxophone
Ronell Johnson: trombone

Additional guests stepped in for songs here and there, including a be-wigged Angelo Moore of Fishbone who showed up out of nowhere to sing and play sax on "Get Out of My Life Woman."  So good.

Other songs (many written by old fave Allen Toussaint, RIP) they played to perfection: "Yes We Can," "Ya Ya," "Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky (From Now On)," "Holy Cow," "Ride Your Pony," "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley," and my all-time favorite... "Working in the Coalmine."

There are concerts that are the perfect length, those that you are ready to exit early, and those that you just hope will keep going on and on.  This fell under that final category.  I knew I was amid greatness, I was so close I felt like I was trespassing (or should've picked up a tambourine), and I knew it would leave a mark.

"New Orleans ain't a city, it's a scar."  -- Old 97's, "504"

This city leaves marks on me inside and out.  Seems like a fleur-de-lis tattoo might have to happen.




Pics from the show... that's me in the blue shirt and Jagermeister ballcap looking like a tourist.  But with a stellar vantage point.


Monday, May 08, 2017

Your Week of Zen

"The Mexicans say the Pacific has no memory. That's where I want to live the rest of my life. A warm place with no memory."



So said Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, talking about Zihuatenejo, a small, theretofore fishing village on Mexico's southwestern coast. Andy and Red wound up there (spoiler alert, but if you need a spoiler alert for Shawshank, maybe we've misjudged you), warm and amnesiac in the passing of their days. This week, Whitney and I will wind up there, too.

Bit of a different reason.

We're headed to Mexico's Pacific Coast for the wedding of two friends, not to escape from justice or anything else. But it'll be warm. And we'll forget a lot of stuff. So I can't wait. We're gonna get busy living, 'cause the alternative ain't much fun.

Try to keep the lights on here while we're gone.