Cover band, uncovered!

Church festivals are a big deal in Cincinnati. Every Catholic church in the area has a weekend where they transform their parking lot into a mini state fair (minus the livestock), complete with games of chance, rides, food booths, bid-n-buy, etc. Many parishes will even set up a stage and book local bands too.

Our parish festival is a couple of weeks from now, so they posted the schedule for it in the church bulletin:

I love how they had to emphasize that the local cover band called “Naked Karate Girls” wasn’t actually naked.

Because we all know the church ladies would NOT approve if they were.

The Friday night band is called Devils Due. Maybe that one needs a disclaimer too:

*This band does NOT feature any devils. But they may play some INXS.

 

 

 

This was their finest hour! (Actually, make that 19 hours.)

It wasn’t much of a story, really, just a brief blurb buried in the Cincinnati Enquirer on a few changes that Xavier University is making to their on-campus basketball and volleyball arena, The Cintas Center. But man, did it open a giant can of memory worms for my old XU crew.

Xavier is installing a new craft beer bar in an upper corner of the basketball arena, and the bar they are installing is the same 35-foot cherryback bar that was in The Norwood Cafe, a legendary hole-in-the-wall bar just off campus that was demolished a decade ago when Xavier expanded their campus footprint.

“The Woods” as it was called, was a throwback from a bygone era, when the city of Norwood had a General Motors plant. The bar would open at 5:30 a.m. for those GM third-shifters looking to have a beer — or a famous “Double Beamer” of coke and whiskey — before their morning bedtime. Long after the GM plant quit making Camaros, the bar hours remained the same. For Xavier University students, “opening the Woods” became a thing, a badge of honor, bragging rights: you’d stay up past the closing time of Dana Gardens (the other XU watering hole) at 2:30 a.m., and find something to occupy your time until you could stumble into the Woods at 5:30 a.m. for a nightcap that was really a morning cap. But there was also a legend (or myth) about a few hardy Musketeers who had both opened and closed the Woods – staying there from the time the bar opened until the time it closed… 19 or so hours. Well, straight from the “it seemed like a good idea at the time” book, my friend LJ and I realized that our senior year exam schedule would allow us to complete that feat. Challenge accepted!

L to R: yours truly and LJ. Men on a mission.

We knew we had to pace ourselves, so we limited our alcohol intake, and we also spent most of the daytime hours playing darts and doing yearbook-style legacies/prophecies for all of our buddies. When they showed up that evening, we had an impromptu ceremony, with the reading of the legacies and a gift exchange where each guy brought article that was unique to him. We pulled names from a hat and whoever’s name you picked, you got that person’s keepsake. Which is how Paul from Cleveland wound up with my treasured and oh-so-stylish “Hawg Hat” that no true Arkansas Razorback fan would be without.

Haters gonna hate the Hawg Hat

Bill Clinton has been called a pig by many.

When I read the article about the Woods bar being installed at the arena, I emailed a link to “the gang” figuring it would be good for a chuckle or three. But the response was overwhelming. Nearly every guy weighed in — including our friend Matt, breaking his self-admitted “radio silence” of several years. They brought up memories not only of that night, but of other notable events during our time together on campus.

 

Matt giving Ned his patented “helicopter spin”… he let go a couple seconds later.

I’ve read that women’s friendships are based on shared emotions, and men’s friendships are based on shared experiences. Or as this Wall Street Journal article puts it:

Researchers say women’s friendships are face to face: They talk, cry together, share secrets. Men’s friendships are side by side: We play golf. We go to football games.

Some of my best friends in the whole wide world are in the photos above. Just a bunch of kids from Cleveland and Akron and Strongsville in Ohio and Tampa and Middletown, Connecticut and Louisville and Indianapolis and the West Side of Cincinnati… and Clarksville, Arkansas, of all places. Thrown together in a dorm and learning how to get along. Doing some stupid stuff, but living to tell about it. And living to re-live it… even at our advanced age.

So thank you, Cintas Center, for installing the bar from the Norwood Cafe in your arena. As a season ticket holder for men’s basketball, now I’ll be reminded of good times spent with great friends at least 16 times a year. Maybe I’ll even have a Double Beamer to celebrate. But not 19.

 

No cause for alarm(s)

Three of our kids wrapped up their school year yesterday. Our daughter Leah has a Latin exam today (sounds like fun!) and will be finished before noon. That means I’ll have three glorious months of no kiddie wake-up duty.

And if you’ve never tried to wake up a teenager, I suggest you go poke a rattlesnake nest with your bare hands, it’ll be less painful.

Oh sure, I’ll still get up at the crack of dawn. I’m a 52-year-old guy… nature calls early and often for me. But it’ll be nice to have just a few minutes to spare.

Now that the kiddies are ready to sleep in, I just need to work on the kitties

Enjoy your summer!

 

 

Make every day a Ray Day

I work from home on Tuesdays, and if the stars align, I’m able to sneak in a workout at the Mt. Washington Recreation Center near my house between the time my oldest son heads to high school and the time I have to wake my youngest for grade school.

I used to go to the Rec Center nearly every weekday morning, back before my kids started high school and had an earlier wake-up call. There was a morning crew of about five to eight “regulars” at the Rec back in those days, including an elderly gentleman named Ray Neyer. He was a friendly chap, always smiling, sharp as a tack even in his 80s. Ray became the unofficial mayor of our assemblage.

Yesterday morning I went to the Rec, and one of the other morning workout warriors had made some muffins and brought in some oranges to celebrate “Ray Day” – because he died on May 23, 2015 at the age of 86. Think about that for a moment: someone who only knew Ray from their gym time together each morning was so impressed by him that they were celebrating his life two years after he passed away. That tells you what kind of person he was. His obit certainly shows that he led a fulfilling life:

Ray was a graduate of St Xavier High School (’47) and University of Notre Dame (’52). He was a decorated Korean War veteran. After an honorable discharge Ray worked in and owned the family business Al. Neyer, Inc. with his father, uncle, brothers, sons, nephews & niece until retirement. He received numerous industry awards and held various industry association officer positions. Ray was an active (to say the least) volunteer with The Children’s Home of Cincinnati, Mt. Washington School, North Fairmount Community, Meals-on-Wheels, and Mercy Hospital. In retirement, he was also a regular patron and friend at Mt. Washington Recreation Center. He was also a Board member/Trustee at the Reserve of Turpin Condo Association. Ray received numerous community and organizational awards due to his many contributions and accomplishments: St. Xavier HS’s Insignis Award, the ACI Spirit of Construction award, the WCPO Hometown Hero award, and the AARP Andrus Award for Community Service among others. His final act of giving was to donate his earthly being to the University of Cincinnati. He was an exemplary son, brother, husband, dad, father-in-law, grandfather, great-grandfather, friend, mentor, sounding board, citizen, and all-around great guy. He always left everyone with a smile on their face. 

May we all be so lucky. But it’s not really luck, is it? Ray could’ve stayed home watching Matlock reruns, but he chose to stay active, he chose to get involved, to give back… and he put in the effort to leave folks with a smile on their face. We can do the same, in our own way, to brighten the lives of those around us. Let’s make every day a Ray Day.

 

I just wanna stop… but I can’t quit Gino

I did a bit more Senior-Discount-Sunday crate-digging through the LPs at my local St. Vincent de Paul, and I’ve got a bit of sad news: the biggest Gino Vannelli fan in the Cincinnati area has moved on…

Six, count ’em, six albums from Gino’s heyday were available for four bits each. I’m not sure if the Gino fan has moved on to other soft rock stars of the 70s (we’ll have to check the iTunes sales numbers for Seals & Crofts) or to the Great Beyond. Either way, it’s a sad day.

My favorite GV album cover has to be the one from the ’75 release Storm at Sunup:

A poodle-permed Gino stares forlornly at the camera, satin shirt open to reveal his hirsute chest and his “lack-pack” (i.e. lack of a two-, four- or six-pack). A scantily clad woman is in the background, clearly disappointed with her choices in life.

But there is good news for Gino fans (and really, aren’t we all Gino fans?):

a. He’s still alive

b. He’s still touring

c. His hair is still amazing.

And now, a short-distance dedication from Gino to the Cincinnati area person who dumped him at the Mt. Washington St. Vincent de Paul:

500 channels and nothin’ but the same two guys on

It made my heart so happy  (in a fake Kelly Ripa way) that Kelly Ripa decided to replace one overexposed co-host (looking at you, Michael Strahan) with another overexposed co-host (Seacrest…in).

[Sidebar topic: Kelly Ripa is the black widow of TV hosts – discuss amongst yourselves.]

Seriously, are Strahan and Seacrest on a not-so-secret mission to take over every airwave that exists? Michael Strahan is a host on Good Morning America, and an analyst for FOX NFL games, and hosted the reboot of $100,000 Pyramid. Before he got the heave-ho from Kelly, he was basically on the air about 12 hours of every day. And Seacrest covered the other 12, with American Idol, E! News, all those E! red carpet shows, the annual New Years Rockin’ Eve… in addition to his daily four hour radio show and the weekly American Top 40 countdown. I hope they own stock in 5-hour Energy.

Actually, I kinda hope they get laryngitis.

I’m not a regular viewer/listener to any of the shows listed above — in fact I barely watch any TV at all — but even I can’t escape the two-headed host-beast named Stracrest.

All that on-air time must be cutting into their prep time:

The Boss was right.

 

 

 

End of the (car) line

Our youngest child, Andrew, turned 12 this past Thursday.

Older sister Leah is not impressed.

A week from today, he’ll wrap up 6th grade at Sands Montessori, the same school his three older siblings attended (and the first public Montessori school in the United States!).

We’ve had kids there since 2005, and have made great friends with fellow parents over the years. It’s hard to believe that a week from now, we won’t be “Sands parents” anymore. It’s the end of an era, the closing of another chapter in our lives.

I work from home most Tuesdays, and drop Andrew off at Sands in the morning. I won’t miss the school drop-off line – for some inexplicable reason I fully expect preschoolers and grade schoolers to disgorge from their parents’ cars with the swiftness of WWII GIs leaving their Higgins boat during the D-Day invasion… a sure recipe for frustration.

  

But I’ll really miss my time with Andrew in the morning – waking him at 8 (I call him “Lieutenant Lazybones”), serving him a nutritious breakfast of… whatever sugar-laden cereal happens to be handy…

… listening to music on our three-minute ride to school, giving color commentary on the other cars in line (“look at this one, stopping only halfway through the circle… c’mon, your snowflake can walk an extra 20 feet!”)…

… sending him on his merry way with a quick “love you!”… and getting back a “love you too” because he’s not a jaded teenager yet.

Come August, he’ll be getting on a bus with two of his older siblings, headed to Walnut Hills. He’ll still be my boy, he’ll still be our baby… but baby boy has left the building. And I really miss him.

 

If you like Piña Coladas…

Sunday is Senior Discount Day at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop near my house. While I’m not a full-fledged, card-carrying, early-buffet-eating member of AARP just yet, the discount applies for anyone 50 or older. (“Fifty is nifty!”) And I can’t resist a 25% discount, especially when my vinyl crate-digging unearthed this gem:

Yes, the masterpiece of Rupert Holmes oeuvre, the seminal Partners in Crime album, featuring the earworm entitled “Escape” but better known and loved by millions as “The Piña Colada Song.”

Don’t act like you don’t know it. Don’t act like you don’t like it. Don’t pretend that you’re not hearing it in your head right now, and singing along at the top of your inner-voice lungs.

It may not be the best song ever put to acetate, but it has its own unique charm. And it is, hands down, the single most unrealistic song about a relationship ever. Let’s recap it, shall we?

In the days before Tinder, when newspapers were still a thing, folks would use the “personals” section of the classified ads to find love. But wait, our Escape protagonist already has a lady. She’s sleeping right next to him… and he’s perusing the personals. Yet somehow he manages to absolve himself of any guilt or shame in the first couplet:

I was tired of my lady, we’d been together too long/Like a worn-out recording, of a favorite song

Ergo, ennui is justification for cheating on your significant other. Who knew? So he sees a personal ad that piques his interest. Perhaps it’s a shared predilection for piña coladas and/or getting caught in the rain and/or intimate encounters in sand dunes. Or a mutual hatred of yoga/health food. So while his current “lady” is sleeping, he channels his inner Robert Browning and writes a reply, suggesting a rendezvous at an Irish bar (because those are the best kind of rendezvous – sidebar, the word “rendezvous” is plural – those wacky French!)

When the woman arrives at the appointed place and time – plot twist ahead – it’s his current paramour (a.k.a. “my own lovely lady”). And both of them laugh off the fact that they were trying to cheat on each other. Yes, that’s correct, in this song, there’s no righteous indignation, no hurt feelings, no screaming/yelling/divorce-attorney-calling. They laugh it off, presumably have a drink or three (when in O’Malleys…) and in all likelihood head to the Cape for an assignation. It’s not really a song so much as it is a fairy tale.

So when I saw the album in the thrift shop, I had to have it. Especially because it had held up rather well considering its 1979 release date. It still had the poly wrapping, it still had the record sleeve with liner notes, it even had the original receipt from the purchase:

Guess it wasn’t Senior Discount Day at Music World back in the summer of 1980. They paid $5.75 but I got the album for 37 cents. Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me (and The Village People) to introduce the world’s favorite non-philanderer, the inimitable Rupert Holmes:

 

Howdy, Non-Stranger

This blog is usually about as far as I venture into the realm of social media. I have a Facebook account that was created by one of my co-workers years ago — without my knowledge or consent. (We’ll save that story for another blog post.) And I never really have “activated” that account so the only two FB “friends” I have are the dude who created the account (thanks Gopal!) and my co-worker Jason, a great person and fellow Xavier grad (that’s redundant).

Since I rarely visit my own Facebook page, yesterday I stumbled upon a message written by Jason a month prior. But the suggestion he has for all of us still applies:

So that’s our mission for the day: say hello to someone you normally wouldn’t. A simple way to make the world a bit kinder.

 

 

I’m your (second) biggest fan

Regular blog readers (all three of you) know about my love for the Boston band called Buffalo Tom. (Yes, they’re from Boston and they have “Buffalo” in their name… might help explain why 99% of America has never heard of them.) BT (that’s what we hardcore fans call them) had their moment in the sun back in the early 90s. (OK, it wasn’t exactly a moment in the sun, maybe more like a moment under mostly sunny skies.) Now they still get together to make music occasionally — a new fan-backed album is due out soon — but also have day jobs. The lead singer is a real estate agent – if you’re looking for a mid-century modern in the Boston ‘burbs, Bill Janovitz is your go-to dude.

Bill Janovitz has also been involved in a Boston sports charity for many years, called Foundation To Be Named Later. It was started by former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein (hence the wacky baseball-related name) and his twin brother Paul. Each year they do a “Hot Stove, Cool Music” benefit concert in Boston, and Bill is an organizer of that concert as well as a participant. Now that Theo is the President of the Chicago Cubs, the charity has expanded to Chicago as well.

At this year’s Boston gig a couple of weeks ago, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder played a Buffalo Tom tune called “Taillights Fade,” trading verses with Bill Janovitz. Listen to the first 20 seconds to hear Eddie pay tribute to Buffalo Tom.

“Taillights Fade” is from Buffalo Tom’s 1992 album Let Me Come Over, which is my all-time favorite album.

The cover of Let Me Come Over

They’re putting out a 25th anniversary edition as a double LP/CD with a 1992 concert included.  It’s also worth noting that Bill has a heart of gold – he called out ticket resellers who were marking up tickets to the Boston charity concert.

And a co-worker of mine tipped me to a blog called “One Week/One Band” where:

Every week, one trusted music aficionado showcases a band or artist they feel particularly passionate about. Any artist from any country or decade will do — no rules and no canon. Some of those bands you might know very well; some of them you might have never heard of.

Week #1 was The Replacements, one of my favorite bands. Week #2 was….(drumroll please)…. Buffalo Tom! The writer, Andrew Necci, talks about BT’s song “Birdbrain” which is another favorite of mine. If I were a major league baseball player, “Birdbrain” would be my walk-up song.

Obviously I’m not a MLB player (still working on that knuckleball), just a big fan of Buffalo Tom. It’s nice to know that their music had such a big impact on other folks too. Eddie Vedder and I are practically brothers. OK, at least we’re friends.