We’re more connected than ever. We’re less connected than ever.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…

Thanks to our smart phones, our tablets, our laptops… heck, even our “smart refrigerators”… we’re more connected than ever. We can get the information we need (or a bunch of time-sucking listicles and memes) easier than ever before. But there’s a tradeoff: what we’re losing is our ability to connect with other people, face-to-face (sorry, FaceTime doesn’t count).

… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…

Exhibit A: Tourists. “Back in my day” when you were in a strange city or country, you’d have to stop and ask a local. “Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to the museum?” Mundane, sure, but also a chance to connect… “Where are you visiting from?… Oh, I have an uncle who lives in Albuquerque!”

Now, we use Google Maps to help us navigate (even though Google Maps doesn’t know the shortcuts). We use Yelp to figure out where to eat. Heck, even hailing a cab required a bit more conversation than Uber or Lyft… “Where to, Mack?”

Seems like we’re forgetting how to strike up a conversation with any stranger who isn’t named Siri or Alexa.

…we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

But don’t worry, there is a cure for this social malady. It’s lederhosen. Yes, that unique German combo of cargo shorts and overalls. Allow me to explain. A couple of days ago, I went on a Pub Run with a bunch of co-workers. We ran (or walked) from one pub to another, from downtown Cincinnati across the Roebling Bridge to Northern Kentucky and back again, and had a beverage at each stop (or some of the stops, depending on when you had to pick your kid up from soccer practice). The pub run organizers, John and Jay, decided to give this run an Oktoberfest theme. So they dressed up in lederhosen (and in Jay’s case, a mullet wig – don’t ask).

At our 4th stop, a couple came up to us and — wait for it — struck up a conversation! They had spotted us at one of our previous stops, then saw us again half an hour later, so they just had to know what was going on… especially because there were lederhosen involved. Les and Amy were co-workers, in town from Tucson for a conference, and looking for a good place to eat. We were happy to meet them; they were happy to meet us. We were more than happy to explain the lederhosen (the mullet remains inexplicable). We were thrilled to be able to share our local knowledge and offer several restaurant options.

The entire encounter took less than five minutes, but I guarantee you that Les and Amy left feeling much better about the friendly folks in Cincinnati. And they probably had a better meal than Siri could serve up.

Next time you’re on the road, put down the smart phone. Act dumb. Talk to a person. Especially if they’re wearing lederhosen.

 

Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!

I attended a taping of the Jerry Springer Show yesterday. Don’t worry, it wasn’t that bottom-feeding TV show of his… there were no midgets married to horses, no clown strippers, no trailer park homewreckers (at least as far as I could tell – it’s not something that you ask in polite conversation).

This was the Jerry Springer Podcast.

If you’re not from Cincinnati (and old like I am) you may not know that Jerry was once a city councilman for our fair burgh… albeit a councilman who got caught in a scandal because he wrote a personal check to a call girl. His political career survived that incident and he later became mayor of Cincinnati, then a local TV news anchor. And his syndicated TV show wasn’t always the hot mess that it is now.

In 1990, his TV station’s owner (which also produced Donahue and Sally Jesse Raphael) recruited him to host a new daytime talk show. “There was no expectation that it would last at all,” Springer recalls. “My first contract was six weeks.” At the beginning, The Jerry Springer Show emulated Donahue and tackled serious subjects. But the success of Ricki Lake in 1993 convinced Springer and his producers to target a younger audience and go full tabloid. “Young people are much more open in their lifestyles, so every once in a while the show would go crazy,” Springer says. By the late 1990s, Universal had bought the show—and dictated that Springer up the crazy. (Source: https://www.tvinsider.com/47933/jerry-springer-picks-10-of-his-best-of-the-worse-episodes/)

But Jerry’s podcast is something completely different. My friend Jene Galvin is Jerry’s sidekick, and they tackle political topics, along with some amusing banter among Jerry, Jene and co-host Megan Hils, plus a live performance from a roots/Americana band. (Last night’s musical guest was Wild Carrot.)

Jerry’s a lifelong liberal, so the show doesn’t just lean left, it’s a full 90-degrees left of center. But the man’s no dummy – he earned his law degree from Northwestern, spent more than a decade in local politics and won mutiple local Emmys for his TV commentaries. So he has an interesting take on the current political shenanigans (which often make the antics on his TV show look tame in comparison).

The podcast is certainly worth a listen. And if you’re in the area, I highly recommend that you attend the show, which takes place every other Tuesday at a neat little place called Folk School Coffee Parlor in the quaint Kentucky town of Ludlow, along the Ohio River. There’s also a local brewery/taproom next door called Bircus Brewing… but go after the show, not before… we don’t want any fights breaking out (save that for the TV show).

 

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Matt Damon…

This clip is about as Bahston as it gets…

“How do we have this?”

“We need to negotiate heah…”

“We got connections…”

The banner went missing for 48 hours but is now back with the Red Sox. And apparently there were no negotiations. But in tribute to the city where the banner was “found”, here are the Pernice Brothers with an underappreciated gem of a song called Somerville.

 

The ‘chunk is still punk

On Monday evening, I made the 100-mile drive north to Columbus to see Superchunk. They haven’t played anywhere near Cincinnati in eons, so a two-hour trip was a small price to pay. Besides, I’m on “staycation” thanks to Hurricane Florence… if I can’t go to North Carolina, at least I can see a great band from Chapel Hill.

It’s a very “Puppet Show & Spinal Tap” sign

The show sold out the day it was announced (can you say “pent up demand”?) but I managed to snag a last-minute ticket via Craigslist. I’m so glad I did, too. They absolutely rocked!

I’ve seen Superchunk before, but it’s been a couple of decades. Things (including hairlines) have changed.

Superchunk Reflect at Full Throttle on 'I Hate Music ...

They still have that same fire, that same punk rock energy (bassist Laura Ballance no longer tours due to a hearing issue, but Jason Narducy ably takes over her spot). Lead singer/guitarist Mac McCaughan is 51, but he acts like a teenager on stage, bouncing around like a pinball and singing and playing with reckless abandon.

Superchunk’s latest album What A Time To Be Alive is very punk in its subject matter too, turning their righteous indignation toward the powers that be (especially the powers that reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue).

To see the rot in no disguise
Oh what a time to be alive
The scum, the shame, the f***ing lies
Oh what a time to be alive
Oh what a time to be alive

 — from the title track

Hate so graceless and so cavalier
We don’t just disappear
Shifting shapes you’re just an auctioneer
But we’re still here

— from “Erasure”

It’s not all bile, though, and there’s always melody in Superchunk tunes.

30 years into their career, they’re still playing small clubs, but honestly, that’s where they need to be – Mac admitted as much from the stage. There are no barriers between the band and the audience, literally and figuratively. And that’s the way we like it.

 

Green acres is the place to be, farm livin’ is the life for… not me

Yesterday afternoon the Neltner Family hosted their annual pig roast on the family farm. They’ve been hosting a pig roast for two decades – inviting generations of neighbors and friends to their place for an evening of great food and even better company. It’s old school all the way, like a church picnic… “bring a side dish or dessert to share.”

The Neltner family has been farming the same patch of land in Northern Kentucky since the late 1800s. Farming was their main occupation for generations. Plant some corn and tomatoes and apple trees, grow enough to feed your family and if the weather gods smile down upon you, sell your surplus. Nowadays, it’s more of a side hustle – the hardest side hustle ever. My friend Keith Neltner and his brother Rick are both graphic artists, and Rick does photography too. Which makes for an interesting mix of people at the pig roast:

But Keith and Rick and their siblings (and now their offspring) spend a lot of their “leisure time” working the farm.

Keith is one of the most talented artists in the world. Yet he spends his weekends doing manual labor to keep the family business going. That’s a tough row to hoe, literally.

The Neltners host a family festival at their farm several weekends in the fall. You won’t find a nicer family, or one more deserving of your hard-earned dollars. And it’s an honest-to-goodness working farm, not one of those “dump a bunch of pumpkins next to some hay bales and call it a ‘farm'” places.

Load up the family truckster. Stop by, say howdy, have some fun. And show a little appreciation for the hardest working folks around.

The (Radio) Kids Are Alright

This past weekend, I got to catch up with three folks whom I first met in my 97X radio days, when I was the morning show co-host and they were student interns. (Actually, we called them “co-producers” of the morning show because we felt that the term “intern” had some negative baggage, even in the pre-Lewinsky era, and we also wanted them to know that they were integral to the show.)

It’s been a quarter-century since those salad days, and it had been that long since I’d seen one of them, and 15+ years since I’d seen another. They’re not kids anymore, but they’re a decade younger than I am, so they’ll always be kids to me.

Jessica, Steve and Joe

Jessica (far left… in the picture… I don’t know her political stance) is a suburban Chicago native (a lot of Miami University students are) and returned home after graduation. Ditto for Steve (a.k.a. “Roemie da Homie” – center square in the photo). Joe (at right) was an army brat, so he grew up all over, including a stint in the Chicago ‘burbs in junior high. He stuck around Cincinnati after graduation.

Joe and I drove up to Chicago to see Buffalo Tom in concert. (Meaning I’ve now seen 28.6% of the shows on their North American tour… 2 of 7). On a whim, I emailed Jessica prior to our trip and asked if we could meet up. As fate would have it, she too is a Buffalo Tom fanatic (the few, the proud…) and was already planning to attend to the concert. Next thing you know, she was graciously offering to host Joe and me in her home. Meaning she is still just as kind-hearted as she was in college (and perhaps just a bit naïve, given the proximity of the guest beds to the basement beer fridge… hic!). We managed to meet up with Steve both nights too, and shared many a laugh over the radio station foibles (it was like an indie rock WKRP) and the sweatshop-like conditions of their internships (they got “paid” with promo CDs, band t-shirts and free concert tickets).

They’re different now – they’ve morphed from college kids into adults with real jobs, and real kids… and all the chores that come with that – the daily commute, the carpool line, homework reminders and sports practices. Yet they’re still the same great people that they were back then – smart, witty, kind, enthusiastic about life.

It’s great when you can go a couple of decades without seeing someone and pick up right where you left off.  The only difference is, as you get older, you cherish those moments more.

Seems like I was just a kid not so long ago
So many arrivals
So many hellos
Now my time behind is greater than my time ahead. Save up the minutes like flowers before they’re all dead and gone….

 

 

 

 

And then there were none

Got a call from my cousin Tom yesterday, letting me know that his mom/my aunt had passed away over the long weekend. Aunt Pat was one of my dad’s two sisters, and never really strayed far from her Jersey City roots. She and her husband (a.k.a. Uncle Vince) lived in Verona, NJ for most of their adult lives. After Vince passed away a few years back, she moved to Virginia and moved in with her daughter and son-in-law to be closer to family. She loved her kids. She adored her grandkids. She was over the moon about great-grandchildren.

Aunt Pat was pushing 90, but you’d never know it. “Young at heart” fit her to a tee. I remember when she was in her 70s and several members of our family had gathered at my older sister’s place in Brooklyn. My sister’s kids were riding Razor scooters on the promenade along the Hudson River, in the shadows of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Aunt Pat promptly commandeered one of the scooters and took it for a spin, as fun-loving and carefree as any teenager. That was Aunt Pat in a nutshell – when her peers were riding Rascal scooters, she was on a Razor.

Aunt Pat loved Seinfeld too…

She had a joie de vivre that always came through, with a smile on her face and a joyous lilt to her voice. Now she’s gone – the last of that generation to leave us, preceded by Uncle John, my dad, Uncle Vince, Aunt Virginia, Uncle Don… and my mom, Uncle Remo and Zia Inez on the maternal side of my family. Which means I’m now part of the eldest generation of the Dotterweich/Osellame family. The connective tissue with the greatest generation has been severed… we still have the stories they shared, but it’s not the same without them here.

There’s not much we can do about it, but we can live the rest of our lives like Aunt Pat lived hers – with fearlessness, with a fun-loving attitude, with a smile on our face and a joyous lilt in our voice. Aunt Pat never let us down, and there’s no way I’m letting her spirit fade away. Hand me that scooter and get out of my way.

 

No blog post on Labor Day

My ghostwriter is a union employee.

Happy Labor Day! And for my European friends, Happy Labour Day!

 

D. West, The Best

A couple of days ago, NBA player (and Xavier alum) David West announced his retirement after a very productive 15-year career.

He didn’t have the marquee value of some of his single-name counterparts in the pros (Kobe, Shaq, LeBron, etc.) but he was a two-time All-Star who had an extremely productive career. Check out the stats below:

He was a pro’s pro, a true warrior, and someone who made everyone else on the team better. A couple of years ago, he joined the Golden State Warriors for the veteran minimum salary when he could’ve gotten much more elsewhere. Because “you can’t take it with you.”

https://twitter.com/i/status/1035220605656870913

He also had passions beyond the b-ball court. This Washington Post article is a nice tribute to his many talents.

Scott Van Pelt sums up David West’s career and his ethos beautifully in this One Big Thing segment:

Congratulations to D. West on a job well done!