About a month ago, my old radio pal Ric “The Rictile” Cengeri was unceremoniously dumped from his Vermont Public Radio gig, after 12 years of faithful service.
I worked with Ric for three years at 97X. We were roommates for much of that time, and morning show co-hosts for a year. So we spent a ton of time together. You won’t find a nicer guy, or one more passionate about creating great radio programs.
His energy was off the charts. His sense of humor was keen. His joie de vivre was contagious. His ability to remember listeners’ names was Rain Man-like. The way he mentored our college co-ops was admirable.
You could drop Rictile onto an uncharted desert isle (not Gilligan’s Island) and come back in three weeks to find a full blown party with hundreds of people. (He earned his Dirty Mayor nickname from his local pub, where he made so many fast friends that they called him “the Mayor.” He even has a cider named in his honor.)
After such a shock, Ric could’ve chosen to wallow in self-pity. But that’s not the Way of the Rictile. Instead, he’s doing what he’s always done. Going to concerts, to museums, to sporting events, to restaurants, to the symphony, to poetry readings, to the pub, to farmer’s markets, and volunteering in the community… The Man stole his livelihood, but he’s not going to mess up his life.
The Facebook post below from a former co-worker — and Ric’s reply — speak volumes about the kind of person he is.
Ric’s VPR job ended on a sour note, but the Dirty Mayor’s life is a thing of beauty. I can’t wait to hear about his next adventure.
I attended a performance by author David Sedaris last night. You may think it’s a bit of a stretch to call it a “performance” when he was merely reading his stories, followed by an audience Q&A. But that means you’ve never seen David Sedaris live. And I was in that group prior to last night.
I’ve read most of his books, and love them. I knew he’d be funny, insightful, witty, [insert other adjective for a writer of humorous, satirical essays here]. But I didn’t expect it to be bust-a-gut, rolling in the aisles, laughing-so-hard-I’m-crying funny. Yet it was. I haven’t laughed that much, or that hard, in ages. He’s not just a masterful writer, but also a powerful performer.
The promo blurb for the show was spot-on:
If you love David Sedaris’s cheerfully misanthropic stories, you might think that you know what you’re getting into at his live readings. You’d be wrong. To see him read his own work on stage allows his autobiographical narrative to reveal a uniquely personal narrative that will keep you laughing throughout the evening.
Best of all for a hack like me was the fact that the laughs were powered by David’s written words. No props, no fog machines, no show business shtick. Just short essays read by a 62-year-old man standing at a podium on an otherwise bare stage. Observant. Trenchant. Moving. And Hilarious.
David’s tour continues in the U.S. through early December. If he’s performing anywhere near you, you simply must go.
[David also used a bit of his stage time to promote another writer’s latest book. He raved about Ann Patchett’s new novel The Dutch House. I’ll have to check that one out.]
Below is a post that originally ran in November of 2017… reposting today after hearing the news about Johnny Clegg passing away. He will be missed.
Johnny B. Good. Very good.
“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”
“Hello, I’m Johnny Clegg.”
No doubt you’ve heard of (and heard the music of) the former. Chances are, you’re not familiar with the latter. But Johnny Cash is to country music as Johnny Clegg is to South African music. A pioneer, a trailblazer, a true icon. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to call him the Nelson Mandela of music. Back in the Apartheid era, teenage Johnny crossed color lines to learn music and dancing from Zulu men in Johannesburg, and eventually brought it to the world.
“They knew something about being a man, which they could communicate physically in the way that they danced and carried themselves. And I wanted to be able to do the same thing. Basically, I wanted to become a Zulu warrior. And in a very deep sense, it offered me an African identity. It was like a homecoming for me; I don’t know why, but I felt that.”
When he formed an integrated band – Juluka – with Sipho Mchunu, they couldn’t even play in public at first. Eventually they landed a record deal and toured the world.
When Sipho got homesick and left for his Zululand home, Johnny formed a new band called Savuka, which means “We Have Risen” in Zulu. His songs were at the forefront of the fight for equality in South Africa.
“You could not ignore what was going on. The entire Savuka project was based in the South African experience and the fight for a better quality of life and freedom for all.”
One of the best concerts I’ve ever seen was Johnny Clegg & Savuka at a club in Cincinnati, circa 1993. For some strange, mystical reason, I too wanted to become a Zulu warrior that night. And I can’t dance worth a damn. The passion, the energy, the “goodness” emanating from Johnny and his band was palpable, and the tsunami of positive vibes swept up the whole crowd. “I don’t know why, but I felt that.”
Johnny Cash is gone. Johnny Clegg will be gone soon – he’s battling pancreatic cancer. He just wrapped up a brief U.S. tour and has headed home to South Africa, with one more gig in Cape Town lined up for this year.
Soccer had its moment in the sun yesterday. The U.S. Women’s National Team claimed their second consecutive Women’s World Cup title, giving them a record four titles overall.
Meanwhile the men’s team made the finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Don’t ask me what CONCACAF stands for – I think it’s a coffee brand.) They lost to Mexico, 1-0, but hey, they made the finals!
Now, most of America will shrug its collective shoulders, yawn, and go back to watching all the other sports for a few years. Yes, I know that football (the kind actually played with the foot) is “the beautiful game” and that it’s wildly popular in nearly every other corner of the globe. And yes, I know it’s picking up steam stateside… including here in Cincinnati, where FC Cincinnati, a newly-minted member of Major League Soccer, regularly draws crowds in excess of 25,000. Oh, and Rose Lavelle, who scored that beautiful goal for the USA Women yesterday? She’s from the ‘nati!
Still, something seems to be missing… a certain je ne sais quoi. Maybe it’s the traumatic brain injuries and consistent maimings that happen in American football. The interminable wait between pitches of baseball. The meaningless regular season of the NHL… or the meaningless regular season AND meaningless first three quarters of every game in the NBA. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t provide a handy excuse for taking a nice three-hour nap every Sunday like professional golf.
My college buddy Tom always used to claim “soccer is a communist sport” because it could end in a tie.
(He still claims this, even though both his daughters got full-ride scholarships to SEC schools for… you guessed it… soccer!) But after watching the women’s semifinals and final, I know the real problem: “stoppage time.”
Stoppage time (also called injury time) is the time added on at the end of each half at the discretion of the referee.
What other sport has such a ridiculous and mysterious method for running (or not running) the clock? Can’t they just stop the clock anytime there’s an injury? Heck, I’ve worked the scoreboard at more than my fair share of kiddie basketball games, I’ll show ’em how it’s done.
We love two-minute drills and buzzer beaters, and soccer cheats us out of this by making the timing of the game rather random, and by not showing the crowd exactly how much time is left in the contest.
Until they fix stoppage time, soccer will be a sport whose time will never come in the U.S.