About Damian

Writer. Humorist (in my own mind at least). Smart aleck. Old enough to know better, but still young enough not to care.

Sidewalk surfin’… and sidewalk fallin’

Spring has sprung (and I’ve got the allergies to prove it) and thus commences the daily struggle to get the kids off the couch, off the phones and out in the “fresh air” (achoo!).

Leah went out in the fresh air yesterday. She was grabbing a skateboard from the garage as I left to go pick up her younger brother from soccer. When I got home, she mentioned that she had fallen on the driveway and that her elbow hurt. Time for a trip to urgent care…. where time stands still, and the only “urgent” is your urgent desire to get a nurse, then X-ray tech, then doc to show up without an interminable wait in-between.

Four hours later, we finally got a diagnosis: incomplete radial head fracture. Time for a splint, and soon a cast. It’s her left elbow… and yes, she’s a lefty.

Poor thing is gonna have to learn how to text righty. While sitting on the couch.

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Robert Burns knows the score.

If I had a boat…

And if I had a boat
I’d go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I’d ride him on my boat
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean
I said me upon my pony on my boat

“If I Had A Boat” by Lyle Lovett

I don’t have a boat. Instead, we have four cars. Which means four tickets in the car repair lottery. About five weeks ago, my 17-year-old’s ancient Honda got a crack all the way across the windshield. It just magically appeared. A week after I got the windshield replaced, aforementioned 17-year-old managed to scrape the rear passenger door on one of those two-foot high poles that are put in public parking lots to… create more business for repair shops and replacement parts dealers, apparently.

I still miss The Far Side…

He did that on a Friday night, and never mentioned anything to me, even on the Saturday morning after, when I woke him up for bowling. The trim piece by the door was loose… and when he drove Saturday, it flapped in the wind and wound up breaking a taillight housing. If you’re keeping score at home, a replacement trim piece is $20… and a taillight housing is $100. Actually the taillight housing is $100 on Amazon or eBay, but I found it at a local auto salvage yard for $80… a penny saved is a penny earned!

Two weeks later, on a Monday morning, he was driving to school and skidded on a thin layer of ice that had formed… right into the back of the car in front of him. Everyone’s OK, it was just a fender bender… but in addition to paying the deductible, I’ll be paying for that for the next several years via higher insurance premiums.

Ah, the joys of old cars and teen drivers, and the magical combination of both.

After all those incidents, I was looking forward to a repair-free week. Walking into the house the other day, I saw this on my wife’s car:

Is it any wonder why I take the bus to work most days?

My son’s car should be ready tomorrow. I don’t know if I’m ready. Where’s that boat?

Wicked good kids

Last night I attended another house concert at the home of my friends Dave and Jacqui. (You can read about the first gig in a previous post.) They’ve always been huge music fans. Now that they’re semi-empty-nesters, they took the plunge and started booking gigs into their home – nearly one a month throughout the year, in what they call their Parlor & Patio series.

Wicked Peace was band performing last night (sans their drummer – it’s a house concert after all). They’re just a bunch of kids from this hills and hollers… Kentucky for most of them, and West Virginia for one.

The lead singer Tanner and guitarist Patrick met in 2013 when they lived next door to each other in the dorms at Morehead State. Started jamming, started writing. Lead singer conscripted his older sister Amanda as a second vocalist and additional songwriter. They nabbed their bass player Jared from the music program at Morehead, and found their drummer Matthew in their new home base of Lexington.

It’s a family affair – in addition to the brother-sister lead singers, Amanda’s husband Adam is the band manager/booker, does album and poster artwork, sells merch, helps direct their videos… heck, he probably changes the oil on the van too!

Wicked Peace did a very nice set of tunes… some songs sounded a bit like Houndmouth, and Amanda’s voice is like a Southern Sandy Denny.

The show included a tasty “pie break” intermission, where Dave and Jacqui served up free slices from a great local bakery called Piebird.

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Great music, gracious hosts, an attentive (no cell phones allowed) and appreciative audience… and pie. What could be better on a beautiful Friday night in the spring? Nothing!

You can check out Wicked Peace’s videos here.

Don’t sleep on these teams… or do.

Virginia beat Texas Tech in overtime to claim the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship last night. Or so I heard. The game tipped off at 9:26 PM EDT. I had to wake my kids at 6 AM this morning. by the time the clock struck zero, I was fast asleep.

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I’m sure it was “one for the ages” or some other nugget of hyperbole from Jim Nantz (who seems to think every word that comes from his mouth is pure gold). But at my age, my beauty rest is more important. (To be clear, I’m not gaining any ground in the beauty department, just trying to keep the ugly at bay.)

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But even if I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn today, why bother with live feed? It’s a Netflix/YouTube world now. This morning, on my bus ride to work, I was able to watch a 12-minute recap that showed all the field goals from the game. So what did I really miss by not staying up an extra two hours, other than a gazillion Spike-Samuel-Barkley commercials, a bunch of free throw attempts, the always-scintillating “refs going to the monitor for five minutes” and maybe a few Bill Raftery “with the kiss” lines? I’m good.

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There’s no need to watch what happens live anymore. I’ll wait for the recap movie.

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Still the top ranking

“Ranking Roger” of the bands The Beat (a.k.a. The English Beat for U.S. audiences) and General Public passed away a week ago at the age of 56, after a stroke and a battle with brain tumors and lung cancer.

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Ranking Roger (real name Roger Charlery) started out as a London punk rocker before teaming up with Dave Wakeling in The Beat, part of the Two Tone “second wave” of bands that fused ska with punk rock, new wave, reggae and pop music. After The Beat broke up, Roger and Dave formed General Public, while two other Beat members teamed up with Roland Gift to form Fine Young Cannibals. Roger later formed The New Beat and performed with his son, and later still The Beat featuring Ranking Roger.

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It’s worth noting that Ranking Roger was black and Dave Wakeling was white. Well before Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney were teaming up for that schmaltzy “Ebony and Ivory” tune, the Beat were uniting fans of all colors.

“When the Beat were originally going ’round,” he said, “our audiences were so mixed — black, white and Indian, young people and older heads. It was brilliant, and I think we have kind of achieved that today. It is a bit different, obviously, but it is a very friendly crowd and everyone walks out sweating and happy, and I tell myself that’s the most I could ask for.”

Source: New York Times

They also tackled political topics in their songs, most famously in “Stand Down Margaret”… a comeuppance to Margaret Thatcher with the last lines of “love and unity, the only way.”

From the NYT obit: The Beat was born in part out of frustration with the conservative turn in England’s politics.

“To the English Beat,” Robert Palmer wrote in reviewing the group’s second album, “Wha’ppen?,” in The Times, “unemployment, ecology and the antinuclear movement are not separate issues; they are interrelated.”

“Anyone who would like to understand more about the attitudes underlying Britain’s inner-city rioting,” he added, “would do well to start here.”

This nine-minute interview is a great glimpse into Roger’s humble demeanor and his dedicated approach to performing.

Even in his 50s, he was still giving it his all.

That sort of free-spirited yet socially conscious attitude toward life ranks high in my book.

Beer for the people, by the people

Great Lakes Brewing Co. is one of the original craft beer breweries. Based in Cleveland, they’ve been around for more than 30 years.

They recently introduced a new year-round IPA.

Last year, they introduced something even better: an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), which means all of their employees are now employee-owners. It was a classy move on the part of the founders, brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway.

“This wasn’t designed to be a liquidity event for Pat and Dan. It wasn’t designed to bring capital into the company. This is 100 percent focused on putting an ESOP in place so that our employees can share in the upside of Great Lakes.”

Great Lakes CEO Bill Boor, in this article.

The people portrayed in the artwork on the new IPA bottle label and six-pack carrier are folks who work at Great Lakes. One is an acquaintance of mine. Lisa Farmer is the regional sales manager for Great Lakes in the Cincinnati area.

Lisa’s third from the left… writing up an order.

Lisa’s been working at Great Lakes for 16 years, calling on restaurants, bars and supermarkets, and working promo events that typically take place after normal working hours. Now, that loyalty is being rewarded.

Being on beer labels and coasters is pretty cool. Being an employee owner is even cooler.

Several other beer companies have also gone the ESOP route: Deschutes, Harpoon Brewery, Left Hand, New Glarus, Alaskan Brewing Co., Voodoo Brewery, Odell Brewing (partial ownership), and New Belgium and Switchback, which are wholly-owned ESOP companies. (Source.) Think about that the next time you’re buying some brewskies… all other things being equal, why not spend your dollars in a way that benefits the people doing the work to bring that beer your way?

I love a parade…

Actually, I really don’t love a parade. Whole lotta standing around to see people waving from vintage vehicles, and emergency vehicles blaring their sirens for no good reason. Marching bands are fine, I suppose, but you wind up hearing 20 seconds of the tune.

If it’s one of those parades where people throw candy from their floats, parents have to be constantly vigilant lest one of their tykes gets run over by a 1957 Chevy Coupe as s/he is chasing down an errant, dirt and gravel-encrusted Dum-Dum lollipop.

The only real highlight for me is Shriners in their tiny cars.

But today’s parade is different. It’s the Cincinnati Reds annual Opening Day Parade. The Reds are MLB’s oldest franchise – they’re celebrating their 150th anniversary this year.

As the éminence grise (or éminence rouge technically) of the league, they used to host their first game a day before the rest of the league. “Tradition,” as Tevye sings in Fiddler on the Roof. Or “dibs” if you prefer. First come, first served.

For decades, the first pitch of every major league season officially took place in Cincinnati, and the Reds remain the only major league team to always open the season with a home game.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opening_Day

That’s before MLB got greedy a couple of decades ago and decided to bow down at the altar of the Almighty TV Viewing Rights Dollar by having different (read: more prestigious) clubs open the season in Japan, Australia, Puerto Rico or other exotic locales.

Why be on the Reds when you can be in the black?

Cincinnati’s Opening Day parade has been going on for a century, organized by Findlay Market, a old-school public market in the heart of Over-the-Rhine, the area just north of downtown that was the landing spot for thousands of German immigrants (hence the name) back in the late 1800s. Findlay Market is still going strong, with dozens of independently-owned and operated businesss: butchers, bakers, fishmongers, produce peddlers, cheese merchants… you name it. They all band together to organize the parade every year, so it has a nice Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland “hey kids, let’s put on a show!” vibe to it.

Long before Men Without Hats

And the Reds Opening Day is an unofficial civic holiday, a day with high absenteeism at schools and businesses (Reds fever!), where thousands come downtown early to stake out a prime parade vantage point, and actual tickets to the game are a prized possession (a fact borne out by StubHub prices).

The parting of the Reds Sea.

It’s just an amateur parade for a mediocre baseball team. But really, it’s way more than that. It’s a celebration of Spring, of new life. It’s a parade of hope… hope that this season, this year, things will be better. Baseball’s just a convenient excuse to throw an optimism party.

I love a parade like that.

Oblivion is the best medicine

An early contender for album of the year is eponymous debut from Better Oblivion Community Center. The band is a collaboration between Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst. Phoebe is on a roll: in 2017, she released her debut album, Stranger in the Alps, , to well-deserved critical acclaim, and last year she worked with two other rising stars, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, to release a fantastic EP under the name boygenius. Both releases are well worth multiple spins. Listen now and thank me later.

Now Phoebe has teamed up with Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk) to put out an album that’s stellar from start to finish. The tune “Dylan Thomas” is the song of the year, sez me. Love the lyrics.

And here’s another stellar track, “Didn’t Know What I Was In For.”
It’s much mellower but again so strong lyrically and musically.

We may as well complete the CBS This Morning trifecta with “My City.”

And for bonus indie cred, the video for “Dylan Thomas” was directed by Michelle Zauner… a.k.a. Japanese Breakfast, another dubbatrubba favorite band.

Looks like I’m not the only card-carrying member of the Better Oblivion Community Center fan club, though. If you want to catch them in concert, you’ll have to visit a scalper or Scandanavia.

GQ Jay is a classy guy

Jay Wright is the head coach of the Villanova University men’s basketball team. They’ve won the NCAA Championship two of the last three years, which is an amazing feat for any squad, much less a team from a small, private school. Jay is also a handsome dude who is always nattily attired on the sidelines, hence his “GQ Jay” nickname.

Love the pocket square.

As a Xavier basketball fan, it’d be easy to hate him, and not just because he’s prettier than I am. Xavier has played in the same conference as Villanova since joining the reconstituted Big East in 2013, and the Wildcats have owned the Musketeers: 12 wins and only 2 losses. That includes the most recent overtime win by Villanova in the Big East semifinals that killed Xavier’s slim chance of making the NCAA tourney. But he had some very kind words to say about Xavier and their first-year head coach Travis Steele after the game:

Wright, the Big East coach of the year, said, “I told Travis he’s making it look easy. First year, he did a lot with this team. They’ve got a young team, too. They were playing as well as anybody in the conference coming down the stretch, and we knew it. This was no surprise at all. 

“Anybody who’s in their first year in any sport – the coach, the staff, you’ve got graduate transfers, you’ve got freshmen – a lot of people in their first year. That’s what we’re struggling with a little bit. Our staff, we lost our two top assistants the last two years. They had it worse … new head coach.  

“It takes time, man. It takes time. What Travis did with that team from the beginning to where they’re playing now, I don’t know all the tournament stuff, but that team could beat a lot of NCAA Tournament teams. A lot. I think it’s a credit to Travis and their program. They get all those guys back, man, they’re going to have a hell of a team.” (Source: this Cincinnati Enquirer article.)

That’s a classy move by a classy guy. And he’s not just Wright, he’s also right: Xavier will have a hell of a team next year.


Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Your event is not timed

Last Sunday I did a 5K walk as a fundraiser for the American Heart Association. This sheet was in the registration packet:

Sure, “your event is not timed” means that no one was checking our pace with a stopwatch. (Actually a sundial would’ve sufficed for me.) But it struck me that you could also assign a different — and much deeper — meaning to that. I was participating in the walk in memory of a college friend of mine, Kim Collins, who died suddenly of a heart attack last May at the age of 52.

Kimberly Ann Collins Obituary

Nearly 30 of Kim’s relatives and friends participated in the walk.

Kim’s siblings Drew, Lisa and Jimmy

Kim and her sister Lisa lived together, worked together, spent nearly every waking moment together… they were inseparable. Kim went to bed early on a Friday because she was having back pain… she never woke up.

“Your event is not timed.” The event is life, and it’s not timed for any of us. We never expected to lose Kim so soon. Lisa never imagined she’d be without her only sister/roommate/best friend in the blink of an eye. We may think about mortality from time to time, but do we ever truly appreciate the good fortune of merely waking up each morning?

Your event is not timed. Now’s the time to be grateful for each day on this earth, and share that gratitude with those we love.