Essential personnel

Today’s Google Doodle sends love to the “doctors, nurses, and medical workers…”

My wife’s an RN, so I’ll certainly second that emotion. The healthcare community is going above and beyond. Actually, it seems above and beyond to most of us, but it’s par for the course for them. We’re just a bit more cognizant of it now, and we offer them a hearty salute.

That said, I also think we need to give a shout-out to the other types of “essential personnel” who aren’t getting the props they deserve. Like the folks making minimum wage at the grocery stores, trying to keep products on the shelves for the toilet-paper-starved masses.

Doctors, nurses and medical workers likely knew what they were signing up for. The dudes and dudettes at restaurants (carryout only!), gas stations and grocery stores are being exposed to dozens if not hundreds of people every day, for low wages, long hours, and likely zero benefits.

And let’s not forget the factory workers, the truck drivers, the delivery people… everyone in the supply chain who is working OT to keep up with demand, not just for food, but also for medical equipment like masks and gloves.

We take it for granted most of the time. But I hope we’re a bit more appreciative now.

Take a hike

There’s not much good that can come out of a global pandemic. But on a macro level, perhaps we’re all more aware than we’ve ever been before about the fact that we share one planet. Like it or not, actions halfway across the globe can turn our whole world upside down.

And on a micro level, we’re all realizing how much we need connection. And not just the Zoom Meeting kind. In fact, after a long day of staring at a screen and the same four walls, we’re starting to get reacquainted with the magical, mystical powers of a good old-fashioned walk through the neighborhood. Just a simple stroll, with perhaps a friendly wave to a fellow traveler or three (from a safe distance, of course) can do the heart a lot of good (literally and metaphorically).

I hope that when this coronavirus crisis is over, and the gyms and movie theaters and restaurants and bars are open once again, we’ll still take a daily walk… on this planet we all share.

So close, and yet so-cially distant.

In case you missed it (and there’s a 99.9% chance you did miss it), the podcast that I co-host is yesterday’s news! Er, I mean, it was in yesterday’s Cincinnati Enquirer. What do you mean you don’t subscribe to a newspaper? What do you mean you don’t even know what a ‘newspaper’ is?

“Daddy, this iPad is broken…”

Luann Gibbs wrote a “Top 10 ways to practice social distancing” article, and there we were, right at the top of the list. OK, eight spots away from the top of the list. But still, we got some ink!

Full disclosure: Luann Gibbs used to work at 97X, the station that is the focus of our podcast. But neither Dave nor I knew that she was going to mention us.

“Extra, extra… two old guys talk about a radio station that died a decade ago!”

It was our “the new phone book’s here” moment.

Actually, Dave and I don’t harbor any delusions of grandeur. (Occasionally, we do have delusions of adequacy, but we lie down until those go away.) Our podcast is extremely niche. Some podcasts have thousands of regular listeners, some have hundreds… we have “tens” of listeners. As I often say, “we’ve made about 50 people very happy” by bringing back fond memories of a small-but-mighty and much-beloved indie rock radio station. But it’s always nice to get a bit of recognition for the hard work you’ve done.

And now that we’re all under house arrest, there’s never been a better time to check out some new podcasts.

Bill Janovitz saved my life last night.

Back in my Catholic grade school days, the nuns talked about the Corporal Works of Mercy, one of which is “feed the hungry.”

William Shakespeare said “if music be the food of love, play on!”

Bill Janovitz, the lead singer of my favorite band, Buffalo Tom, hosted a “Virtual Happy Hour” yesterday afternoon, via the band’s Facebook page. After mixing himself a martini in his kitchen, he headed down to the basement to play songs from throughout his career, usually on acoustic guitar, occasionally on piano. It was like manna from heaven. A feast for the music-starved masses.

I’ve seen Buffalo Tom several times — in Cincinnati, in New York, L.A., Chicago — and have loved every second of every show. But last night’s solo gig was not just something I wanted to see, it something I desperately needed after a long, long week of work and worry and weirdness. And it wasn’t just me that needed this catharsis — a thousand folks tuned in from around the world. Australia, Italy, England, Abu Dhabi…

I’m not big on the FaceGrams and the InstaTweet and the other social mediums, but yesterday, it sure came in handy as a way to bond with like-minded fans. It provided a true sense of close connection in a social distancing world.

Bill was in his basement, sipping a martini and playing his songs. 800 miles away, I was in my basement, singing along at the top of my lungs (something I’d never do at a regular Buffalo Tom concert – I respect the other fans too much to torture them with my off-key warbling) and crying in my beer at the sad songs. It was more than music, it was magic.

In addition to being a fabulous songwriter and performer, Bill is also a caring dude. He’s heavily involved in the Hot Stove Cool Music fundraisers that provide scholarships for kids and families in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Boston. Yesterday’s gig raised more than $4,000 (via Venmo and PayPal “tip jars”) for local venues, promoters and musicians who are out of work during the coronavirus lockdown.

Bill’s already booked another “Virtual Happy Hour” gig for this Saturday, March 28th, at 4:30 EDT. Grab a beverage and belly up to the basement bar for some musical salvation. And tip generously.

Until then, why not use a bit of your “house arrest” free time to check out Buffalo Tom’s most recent album Quiet and Peace. It’ll be good for what ails you.

That sinking feeling

My employee communications job has turned into “crisis communications” of late (thanks a lot, Wuhan exotic animal market!) and there have been a lot of workdays that have stretched into worknights. (Which also explains my lack of posts recently.) So the last thing I needed when I got up on Wednesday morning was a clogged bathroom sink. But that’s exactly what I got. Actually, it’s not exactly what I got… I got exactly TWO clogged bathroom sinks. Our master bathroom and hallway bathroom are back to back upstairs, and share the same drainpipe.

I played a bit of “plunger ping-pong”: plunge the master bath sink and the standing water would go to the hallway sink…. plunge the hallway sink and it’d go back to the master side. I did manage to yank a field mouse sized lump of hair out of one drains (ah, the glamorous life!) but it was clear that the clog was farther down in the pipes.

I’m far from handy (and far from handsome… sorry Red Green), but I was 72% confident that I could pull out the pop-up plug and/or disassemble the PVC pipes below one of the sinks and clear the clog. But I also was 99.9% sure that I’d screw up the reassembly (which is in tight quarters in a vanity), and we’d then have a leaky drain on our hands. And I was 110% sure that I didn’t have time for this nonsense, with my company’s head of HR and COO already pinging me about the latest corona-crisis.

I got caught up in work and forgot about the clog until that afternoon, when I suddenly remembered that one of my co-workers has a husband who is a master plumber. And they live nearby. And she said he gives a “friends and family” discount to her co-workers.

So I pinged her via our company’s instant message system to get his phone number. I also couldn’t remember his name. Here’s what happened next:

It was a bit crazy. Freaky. Eerie. I mean, what are the chances that she’d use the bogus name of “Herbert” in a chat with a real Herbert’s son, on the very day that he passed away a decade ago?

I’ll spare you the rest of the chat, but we wound up having a nice little conversation about my father. The day started with a lot of frustration, but it wrapped up with some warm fuzzy feelings. Guess things — including clogged sinks — happen for a reason.

Oh, and the ghost of Herbert must’ve heard us summoning him from the Great Beyond, because after I texted Erin’s husband and we arranged for him to stop by the next morning, I went upstairs and the drains were working fine. Thanks, Pops… for everything!

I know the feeling

Same, outlet, same. That’s why I’m shopping at the thrift shop where you live.

Well, I’m also here because my daughter likes to bring me along to get the old man discount on the clothes she buys. But I have to pay for them, and then I’m broke again… it’s a vicious cycle.

That’s OK, though, because this Friday is payday!

Ballers just want to have fun.

If you were a basketball player and you were on a team that won 25 games and made the Sweet 16 your freshman year, and a team that went 6-14 in conference your sophomore year, which would be more fun? The answer is the latter team, at least if your my wife’s cousin’s daughter. (OK, “first cousin once removed” if you must insist on the proper terminology. Who are you anyway… Emily Post?)

Meggie Burgess transferred from Christopher Newport, a school in Virginia that is a perennial D3 powerhouse. Her old squad is ranked #22 in the country, won their conference tourney last night and is headed back to the NCAA tournament with an impressive 23-4 record. But those victories aren’t very fulfilling if you rarely see playing time, and Meggie had the fewest minutes played of anyone on last year’s 25-win team.

“I was sitting on the bench last year saying, ‘I hate this. I don’t know if I want to do this. I don’t know if I want to play anymore.’”

from this Carroll County Times article

She transferred to McDaniel, a D3 school closer to her Maryland home. The team was in rebuild mode, with a brand new coach, but Meggie finally got a chance to contribute, playing in 21 games and averaging 2.5 points and 2 rebounds a game, including a 13-point/3-rebound/2-assist effort in their final game. The WNBA probably won’t come calling anytime soon, but that’s not the point. It’s feeling like you’re contributing to the overall squad.

“Just coming here and being on this team and playing well during practice, and actually getting to participate during practice, was more energizing and more motivating in itself.”

Same article as above.
Photo: David Sinclair

Transferring isn’t always the best option… sometimes you have to work through adversity. That’s not just how sports work, that’s how life works. But in Meggie’s case, she was able to go from a virtual non-entity to a valued member of a team. And that sense of purpose is really rewarding… in sports as well as in life.

“Meggie has grown, I think, more than anybody else in the last couple months… Coming from a situation at Christopher Newport where she wasn’t really in the playing rotation, and then coming here and being able to get minutes and be a contributing factor is huge.”

McDaniel women’s basketball coach Christin Gowan, in the same article.

Besides, Meggie’s new team is called the Green Terror… that’s way cooler than being on a team called the Captains.

The full article from the Carroll County Times is here.

Photo: David Sinclair

Favorite albums of 2019

Yes, I realize that it’s nearly March of 2020. And yes, I realize that I have another site that’s dedicated to musical musings. But one-fourth of Leap Day really belongs to 2019, so I’m sneaking this one in today.

Below are my favorite albums of last year. Not that you asked… and you probably don’t care. But I do. Music is my happy place, and these albums took me to the mountaintop.

Please note that these are listed as my “favorites” and not the “best albums of 2019” for 2 reasons:

  1. I don’t claim to be a music guru.
  2. Music is a very personal medium – just because I love a particular album or artist doesn’t mean you will, and that’s fine.

And now let’s get back to the countdown…

The National – I Am Easy To Find

Gotta give some props to the Cincy boys (even though they didn’t really coalesce as a band until they regrouped in Brooklyn).

Ex Hex – It’s Real

A girl power power trio (no, I didn’t stutter) from D.C., these women really rock.

Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel

In this case, “D.C.” means “Dublin City” and this punk band from Ireland has a great sound.

Bob Mould – Sunshine Rock

Bob’s been around the block a few times – first with Hüsker Dü, and later Sugar, and he’s been putting out solo albums since 1989, but he hasn’t lost any speed off his fastball. Check out this sweaty, glasses-fogged solo performance of the title track.

Pernice Brothers – Share the Feeling

After a long layoff, Joe Pernice (and his brother Bob and friends) come back with another pop masterpiece. The album is tough to track down (I bought the digital version on Bandcamp) but well worth the effort.

Purple Mountains – self-titled

David Berman also returned from a long layoff with a brilliant release… sadly, he passed away shortly after the album came out.

Charly Bliss – Young Enough

This one is more poppy than most of my musical leanings, but it’s so darn good. I also saw Charly Bliss live at a small club with a tiny crowd… easily my favorite concert of 2019. This KEXP live session captures their blissful, youthful energy.

Caroline Spence – Mint Condition

Speaking of concerts at small clubs with tiny crowds… Caroline and her band played for less than 20 people (yours truly included) at a small room in the Cincy area and absolutely tore it up. Great voice, fantastic lyrics.

Bleached – Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough

Led by sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin, this band can go from girl-group harmonies to all-out rockers. Well worth a listen.

Jay Som – Anak Ko

Melina Mae Duterte, the California daughter of Filipino immigrants, goes by the stage name of Jay Som. She describes her style as “headphone music” and her album is dreamy, ethereal… magical.

Black Belt Eagle Scout – At the Party With My Brown Friends

From the artist’s website:

My name is Katherine Paul and I am Black Belt Eagle Scout.   

I grew up on the Swinomish Indian Reservation in NW Washington state, learning to play piano, guitar and drums in my adolescent years. The very first form of music that I can remember experiencing was the sound of my dad singing native chants to coo me to sleep as a baby. I grew up around powwows and the songs my grandfather and grandmother sang with my family in their drum group. This is what shapes how I create music: with passion and from the heart. 

Jesse Malin – Sunset Kids

Jesse Malin is one of my favorite under-the-radar artists. Sadly, he’s been “under the radar” for more than 20 years. This album, produced by Lucinda Williams, showcases Jesse’s amazing range of song styles.

Better Oblivion Community Center – self-titled

Phoebe Bridgers teamed up with Conor Oberst for this surprise release, and it’s an absolute gem from start to finish. I just can’t stop listening to it. (The ad-hoc band also features Griffin Goldsmith from Dawes on drums!)

I’m usually not fond of fan-shot videos, but this is my favorite song on the album.

There you have it, my top picks to click for the year that was. Happy Leap Day!

Freaky Friday

I loved this recent headline:

Not the part about someone going to prison. I wouldn’t wish that fate upon anyone… well, other than drivers who go one mile above the speed limit in the left hand lane, cable installation schedulers, and the occasional president.

But I didn’t even know that “Hot Pockets heiress” was a thing. A Hot Pocket is just a calzone, right? I’m pretty sure that was invented long ago. Maybe her family “invented” the microwaveable part of the equation, or they patented their famous “cold, spongy crust and roof-of-the-mouth-burning filling” combination.

Then again, if Mean Girls taught us anything, it was that there’s a fortune to be made in still-cold-but-somehow-really-hot convenience products.

I wonder if the Hot Pockets heiress ever dated the Pop Tarts scion. If they got hitched, that would certainly be a marriage of convenience. Instead she paid $100,000 to have someone correct her kid’s admissions exam, and another $200,000 to have her daughter admitted to USC as a bogus athlete.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to invent Toaster Corndogs or a microwaveable Twinkie. Time to cash in.

Award-winning moments from the 70s

You can keep your Survivor and your Bachelor. The Masked Singer can stay masked forever for all I care. Because way back before reality shows made celebrities out of ordinary people, there was a reality show that turned celebrities into pseudo-athletes. And it was pure television gold. Feast your eyes upon the glory that is… Battle of the Network Stars!

  • Howard Cosell at his bloviating best
  • Robert Urich at his jerky worst
  • Mr. Kotter kicking butt
  • Epstein loving Mr. Kotter kicking butt
  • Richie Cunningham and Laverne together
  • Farrah and Wonder Woman together
  • Kojak, baby!
  • 50% of the “athletes” smoking heaters
  • Schneider from One Day at a Time
  • The original Richard Hatch
  • Bruce Jenner when he was Bruce Jenner
  • “hullabaloo”

Truly a wonderful way to spend nine and a half minutes. Aw, who am I kidding? I watched that sucker three times, just trying to luxuriate in the glorious 70s-ness of it all.

Most of these folks have left us, but Gabe Kaplan is still around. (All that running kept him in shape… or maybe it was the lack of smoking.) I think he should lead the U.S. delegation in the opening ceremonies of this year’s Olympics.

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