Back in my day…

The whole “we had to walk ten miles to school, barefoot, in the snow, and it was uphill… both ways” trope is played out; it’s useful only for comedians and great-grandparents. But, believe it or not, my siblings and I have a similar story… and it’s totally true!

I was reminded of it recently when I saw a sweet Ford Ranchero in L.A.

Ford Ranchero. Accept no substitutes (looking your way, Chevy El Camino). 

My wife wondered why I was taking pictures of an old car… but then again, she wonders about a lot of the stuff I do (e.g. saving dryer lint… it’s great for starting fires in our fire pit!) But seeing that car reminded me of the white Ford Ranchero we had back in my grade school days.

Not our actual car… but you probably already knew that.

On cold mornings, it wouldn’t start. So my three siblings and I had to push it down our driveway (a short stretch, but with a decent downhill slope) so my dad could pop the clutch and start it. Usually that brief launch would work, but if not, we’d have to give it another push, down past the Church of Christ and onto the dirt road, where there was another downhill run. So before we even got into the car (OK, truck, but barely) to go to grade school at Holy Redeemer (which was, you guessed it, 10 miles away), we were winded and tired. It’s a handy story to use on my kids when they want me to drive them to the bus stop (~200 yards from our house) on winter mornings.

Also, you might be wondering why my dad thought a mini pickup with only a bench seat would be a good vehicle for a family of five. You’re not alone – I wonder the same thing. The most likely reason is because that was only car on the used car lot that fit our meager budget when our previous clunker bit the dust.

I can’t quite recall how we all fit into the cab… memories are hazy nearly 50 years down the line. I think there was enough room behind the seat for one or two of the kids to stand up and ride. I’m sure we looked like a clown car when we were unloading at school… or one of those overloaded bicycles or mopeds from a third world country.

I never gave it much thought back then… it was just how we rolled (and sometimes pushed). But now it’s great leverage to use on my kids. And it allows me to state equivocally that Subaru Brats, with their fancy-pants extra seats, were for mollycoddled whippersnappers.

Back in my day, we didn’t need extra seats. We didn’t have a seat at all… and we liked it!  Now get off my lawn!

 

 

 

 

 

Get Smart about what you pay attention to

  1. Good news: we have unfettered access to all sorts of knowledge via the Interwebs.
  2. Bad news: we have unfettered access to all sorts of bile via the Interwebs.

Seth Godin knows that the best way to deal with the latter is to not deal with it at all. Here’s a recent blog post of his:

Your kitchen table

You open the door and the vacuum cleaner salesperson comes in, and dumps a bag of trash in your living room.

Or a neighbor sneaks in the back door and uses a knife to put gouges on the kitchen table.

Or, through the window, someone starts spraying acid all over your bookshelf…

Why are you letting these folks into your house?

Your laptop and your phone work the same way. The reviews and the comments and the breaking news and the texts that you read are all coming directly into the place you live. If they’re not making things better, why let them in?

No need to do it to yourself, no need to let others do it either.

 

Be Smart.

Don’t give in to the chaos (or the KAOS).

Take Control!

Create your own Cone of Silence.

 

 

 

 

It’s not called Selection Saturday

College hoops fans, want to free up about 30 hours of your time? Here’s how: instead of spending all that time over this past week (including today) worrying and wondering about where your favorite team will be seeded (or if they even will be in the field at all) and where they might be playing, and who they might be playing, just tune in tomorrow evening for the official selection show.

Because any time spent on the “what ifs” before that is wasted worrying. And I hate to burst your bubble, but unless you’re one of the 10 folks in New York City who are part of the selection committee, your vote doesn’t count (talk about gerrymandering!).

I know “bracketology” has become a cottage industry. Heck, there’s even a site that rates all the bracket predictors. (FWIW, ESPN’s alleged expert Joe Lunardi isn’t even close to being the most accurate.)

But none of their brackets matter come Sunday night at 6 p.m. (Also, the official selection show is on TBS this year, not CBS… and don’t forget to spring forward!)

So you can spend countless hours searching for “expert” brackets, and watching talking heads chattering about “last 4 in” and “first 4 out” all you want… or you can take a hike, read a book or three, play with your kids, call your grandma, paint a masterpiece, read boring blogs (thanks!)…

 

 

 

Let Me Come Over

This past weekend, my wife, my oldest son Gabriel and I went to L.A. so that he could visit college campuses (or is that campi?).

The fact that my favorite band happened to be playing a concert in L.A. on Saturday night was purely coincidence. (And by “coincidence” I mean “the main reason for the trip.”)

Yes, faithful dubbatrubba readers will know that I’m talking about Buffalo Tom. They play very infrequently these days, and usually only the left and right coasts of the U.S. of A. When I read that the west coast dates would feature two sets, including them playing their 1992 opus Let Me Come Over in its entirety, I figured I had to go see them… I’m not getting any younger and neither are they. As the opening track of the new album Quiet and Peace says “now my time behind is greater than my time ahead.” Besides, my son wanted to visit UCLA and USC… “Father of the Year” + Concert of My Dreams = win-win.

The cover of the Let Me Come Over album. 

I won’t bore you with the details… chances are good that 70% of the 10 folks who actually read this blog don’t know who Buffalo Tom is and don’t care. Suffice it to say it was a fantastic evening, a borderline religious experience. They sounded great. I loved and savored every damn moment. They’re not the biggest band in the world by any stretch of the imagination. They’re semi-retired for all practical purposes. But to the 500-some-odd true fans in the Teragram Ballroom, most of whom are in their 50s, the three guys in their 50s up on stage crushed it.

Bill, Tom and Chris… just three average Joes playing some tunes for their friends.

For the three readers who do care, here are some links:

Great profile in the L.A. Times. (You can — and should — stream the new album there.) Love this quote:

Instead they live their lives, occasionally regroup, record and head out to perform for a fervent fan base. Some fans are simply enjoying reheating the embers of the heady club days of their alt-rock youth and others are following along with each album.

Super fan Mike O’Malley is in the latter category. Quite frankly, the actor-writer-producer — likely familiar to some for his comically poignant performance as Kurt’s dad on “Glee” or the early 2000s CBS sitcom “Yes, Dear” — is much more perturbed than the members of the band that Buffalo Tom has not achieved a higher level of mainstream recognition.

“I feel a little bit like Arthur Miller, ‘attention must be paid,'” O’Malley says with a laugh on the phone from New York, where he is putting the finishing touches on the book for the new Jimmy Buffett Broadway musical “Escape to Margaritaville.” “But, attention must be paid! I don’t understand why they’re not Wilco or The National. They deserve to be as well-known by a new generation of people who love music.” (emphasis mine.)

A profile in the Boston Globe.

Lead singer Bill Janovitz was a guest on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. (Bill comes on about 31 minutes in. Marc Maron was at the show – I said howdy.)

And this mini-review of the new album in the Boston Herald nails how I feel when it says the new album is as good as their older material:

Jed Gottlieb Saturday, March 03, 2018
Most songwriters peak. Few fans think Bob Dylan improved after “Blood on the Tracks.” Nobody champions Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” over “Born to Run.” But subtract the nostalgia you feel for Buffalo Tom’s “Let Me Come Over” and you’ll likely find the new album “Quiet and Peace” as great as anything the band has done — don’t doubt my claim until you have listened to the quintessential Buffalo Tom track “Lonely Fast and Deep.”

The Boston trio of singer-guitarist Bill Janovitz, singer-bassist Chris Colbourn and drummer Tom Maginnis have nothing to prove. The guys will never make the band a full-time gig again — their ninth album comes after a seven-year break. Maybe it’s this freedom that allows them to write clear-eyed, adult rock ’n’ roll. (Note: This is not meant as a pejorative.)

They fill “Quiet and Peace” with tight rock about complex relationships. “Roman Cars” captures something between mature and playful, an aesthetic between the Kinks and R.E.M. “In the Ice” features a melody and melancholy that echoes Janovitz’s deeply underrated solo album “Walt Whitman Mall.” Flirting with folk, punk and rock drones, the band sounds endlessly comfortable with its art.

Buffalo Tom returns to the Paradise on April 20.

 

 

It Never Rains in Southern California…

… except for 2 of the 3 days we’ll be there.

That’s OK, we’ll still have fun.

 

 

I gave up whine for Lent

Thank you for reading.

For whom the final buzzer sounds

Tonight’s the final home game for the Xavier University men’s basketball team.

I’ve had season tickets for years, and Senior Day is always bittersweet… and not just because it leaves me lacking good excuses for “Dad’s Night Out.”

Most Xavier players stick around for four years. That’s becoming a rarity for top programs, where one-and-done is standard operating procedure. Schools like Kentucky turn over nearly their entire roster every season, as half a dozen blue chippers get drafted by the NBA, and more blue chippers take their place. You can’t even tell the players with a program. (John Calipari, the UK coach, has made this his M.O. and recruiting pitch… and then every year whines about how young his team is. You can’t have it both ways, JC. This is the path you’ve chosen.)

Heck, Duke has a freshman who “reclassified” to start college a year earlier than his high school counterparts, mainly to speed up his journey to NBA riches.

I’m glad Xavier gets the “second tier” kids who don’t bolt. (A few have left early, and two of those are ones that are now on the list of players who might have taken money from agents before or during college… once a shortcutter, always a shortcutter, apparently.) Over the course of four seasons, you get to know the players better – you get to see them grow. You see hard work pay dividends. Sean O’Mara has gone from a benchwarmer, a lumbering ox, to a guy with strong (and smooth) post skills.

J.P. Macura is a classic pest, in the mold of a Danny Ainge, a Dennis Rodman, a Bobby Hurley (or pretty much any Duke player). If he’s on your team, you love him… if he’s on the other side, you absolutely despise him. It’s been fun to see him torture opponents for four seasons.

Trevon Bluiett will graduate as Xavier’s #2 all-time scorer.

He just passed David West, who was lightly recruited in high school… and kept working hard, eventually became college player of the year as a senior and has had a brilliant 15-year career in the NBA.

When it isn’t handed to you on a silver platter, when you haven’t had everyone telling you how great you are since 8th grade, it probably feels sweeter. This year’s seniors have led Xavier to their highest ranking ever (#3), and have a chance to finally wrest the Big East regular season title from Villanova (fingers crossed). They’ve also gotten to enjoy their early adulthood, instead of being yet another piece of meat on an NBA (or D-League) roster. I don’t know about you, but my college years were some of the most memorable and fun times in my life. You can’t put a price tag on that.

 

What goes around comes around

3 musicians + 4 days in the studio = one timely new album. It’s Widdershins from Grant-Lee Phillips, just released on Friday.

The things he’s writing about aren’t hard to figure out. Grant-Lee, who has a Native American heritage, sings “I’d rather go down fighting for the water than start another war for oil” in “Walk in Circles” – a clear reference to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

In “King of Catastrophes” we get the line “from what I hear of fascism, I wouldn’t put it past him”… sounds like he’s referring to our current prez.

Of course, even when he’s throwing shade, he finds a bit of sunshine. In “History Has Their Number” he tells us: “you can’t live in anger, nobody can… it means more to create than to destroy.”

And it’s not all folksinger protest ballads. He still can rock like he did in the early 90s with his band Grant Lee Buffalo. (Their album Fuzzy is one of my all-time favorites.)

Grant-Lee Phillips is probably better known for his role as the town troubadour on “Gilmore Girls” than for his albums.

That’s too bad, because he’s got a great voice, plays a mean guitar and has a lot to say that’s well worth listening to.

Enjoy some meaty links for your Saturday breakfast

Don’t worry, I’m still a tree-hugging vegetarian. The “meaty links” that we’re serving up at the dubbatrubba café are longer reads/listens that are worth chewing on.

I recently posted about South African singer/songwriter/amazing human being Johnny Clegg. Here’s a great 50-minute interview and performance from a recent World Café:

Bill Janovitz is the lead singer of Buffalo Tom. He’s also a father. The latter is more important. He wrote a blog post back in December of 2012, about the Newtown school shooting. Sadly, it remains just as relevant today, in the wake of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (and dozens of other mass killings that have come since Newtown). Please read the entire post here… but if you don’t have time, please ponder these excerpts:

We may not be expected to stop every insane bomb-making McVeigh-like terrorist, nor will we stop every future mass shooting. But no one can deny that we need to start to take logical steps to regulating guns to make it more difficult for the most damaged among us to gain access to machines that slaughter the most innocent among us…

Each day that goes by without substantive corrective measures should bring each and all of us collective shame. As long as we are unwilling to take advantage our self-evident truths of individual liberty, enshrined in our nation’s most sacred documents, to speak out loudly and demand action, days like Friday should make us all feel ashamed to be Americans — ashamed to have done so little with the responsibility that comes with such advantages…

We have already failed these 20 first-grade children, as we have dozens, if not hundreds of others. What are we going to do to stop the next obscenity?

Speaking of gun violence, this article from German Lopez (formerly of Cincinnati’s alt-weekly CityBeat) is a must-read.

So while politicians often lean on mass shootings to call for gun control, the problem goes far beyond those incidents. Though it’s hard to fault them for trying; mass shootings, after all, force Americans to confront the toll of our gun laws and gun culture.

OK, let’s try to brighten things up a bit. Or not. Check out a Wired article about how social media is eroding our love/pursuit of knowledge. Here’s a quick excerpt:

Social networks, though, have since colonized the web for television’s values. From Facebook to Instagram, the medium refocuses our attention on videos and images, rewarding emotional appeals—‘like’ buttons—over rational ones. Instead of a quest for knowledge, it engages us in an endless zest for instant approval from an audience, for which we are constantly but unconsciously performing. (It’s telling that, while Google began life as a PhD thesis, Facebook started as a tool to judge classmates’ appearances.) It reduces our curiosity by showing us exactly what we already want and think, based on our profiles and preferences. Enlightenment’s motto of ‘Dare to know’ has become ‘Dare not to care to know.’

Along those same lines, here’s a long, cleverly illustrated, irreverent article well worth checking out, about how our Social Survival Mammoth can block our Authentic Voice… and how we can overcome that.

Anyone who disapproves of who you’re being or what you’re doing isn’t even in the same room with you 99.7% of the time. It’s a classic mammoth mistake to fabricate a vision of future social consequences that is way worse than what actually ends up happening—which is usually nothing at all.

Let’s end on a brighter, sunnier note, shall we? Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin and Hobbes, one of the greatest comic strips ever) gave a fantastic commencement speech at Kenyon College back in 1990. It’s well worth reading nearly 30 years later.

I tell you all this because it’s worth recognizing that there is no such thing as an overnight success. You will do well to cultivate the resources in yourself that bring you happiness outside of success or failure. The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. At that time, we turn around and say, yes, this is obviously where I was going all along. It’s a good idea to try to enjoy the scenery on the detours, because you’ll probably take a few…

…having an enviable career is one thing, and being a happy person is another.

 

Second generation famous

I’m not a doctor, and I never even played one on TV. But at least some relatives of mine are getting their star turns.

My cousin Tom’s daughter Jamie just wrapped up her second season as a New England Patriots cheerleader.

(Pro tip for Jamie: stand next to Tom Brady on the sidelines and you’ll be on TV roughly 10,000 times during a game.)

My niece Julia just moved up the TV food chain from Myrtle Beach, SC (#101 in market size) to Greenville, SC (#38) where she is the weekend sports anchor for the NBC affiliate, WYFF.

Last but certainly not least, my cousin’s daughter Erika will be playing the role of Cady Heron in the Broadway-bound musical adaptation of the iconic movie Mean Girls. She’s getting all sorts of kudos for her performance (they had a short sneak preview/tune-up run in D.C., and Broadway previews begin March 12th). You can read more here. And here. And here. Or you can check out the article in the latest issue of Vogue, along with a photo by Annie Freakin’ Leibovitz! NBD.

HT to my sister Jeanne for letting me know about the Vogue article… she’s the fashionista in the family.

I remember going to visit my cousin and her family in Northern California back when Erika was about 6 years old, and she was already performing plays for her family, friends — and house guests like us –on their back patio. (So basically, “I knew her when…”)

One of the characters in Mean Girls is named Damian…

Here’s hoping Erika thinks of me, her old pal and early theater patron, whenever she hears that name.

“You know I couldn’t invite you. I had to pretend to be plastic.”