Valley Heat – the hottest podcast in the world!

I’m late to the game on this podcast (sorry, I lead a sheltered life), but Valley Heat is the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time.

It’s like A Confederacy of Dunces meets Arrested Development meets Fernwood 2 Night…. Doug’s deadpan delivery, a wacky cast of characters, fun music references, the bogus promo spots, and great theater-of-the-mind audio all combine to create a perfect storm of humor. Every element is note-perfect!

It’s a bit tough to explain because the folks responsible for the podcast have created a whole wacky world within a Burbank, California neighborhood. Tosthe protagonist, Doug, ostensibly is trying to crack the case of who is using his garbage can as a drug drop. But really that’s just a doorway to all sorts of shenanigans involving an accident-prone attorney, a house that’s also a nightclub/arcade/pizza parlor/car wash, a mean father-in-law (who also runs a muffler empire), a DEA agent who does stakeouts with his mom, legendary frisbee golf players, mean foosball players, Jan that Movie (listen to learn), and a weaselly optometrist. Speaking of which, here’s Doug talking about his teenage son, who was prescribed transition lenses:

I wound up binge-listening to all the episodes over a weekend and was cracking up the whole time. I don’t know what sort of mind can come up with a Simon & Garfunkel alternate version of the Cheers theme song, but I’m totally here for it!

The Patreon offers bonus episodes, which are equally entertaining. Here’s an excerpt about a new product that sounds perfect… other than the fire hazard:
Don’t just trust my judgment on this, trust Eliza Skinner:

Or my buddy Howard:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have some Jannie Cakes for breakfast…

To Be a Winner, Be You

Jon Batiste took home a fistful of Grammys a couple of weeks ago, including the highly coveted Album of the Year award for We Are.

In that moment, it would’ve been very easy for him to thump his chest. Instead he opened his heart.

So classy, so gracious, so humble… and he spoke the truth. We don’t find music so much as music finds us… when we need it the most.

I loved his parting words: “Be you!”

We each have our own path, our own craft. Work at it every day. You may not make the Grammy stage, but you come out a winner in the game of life.

I listened to Jon Batiste on the Broken Record podcast a few weeks ago and was really blown away by his heart, and his wisdom, and his love. Check it out at the bottom of this post- it’s mandatory listening.

In the interview, Jon Batiste makes it clear that he didn’t get to where he is on his own. He talked about his mentors. Their role is crucial.

One of Jon Batiste’s mentors was his father, who urged him to “tell the truth.”

Another was his cousin Alvin Batiste, a legendary New Orleans jazz musician. Alvin pushed Jon out of his comfort zone, and it made him better at his craft:

Your ability, your talent, the innate thing that you have within you… can be applied to anything. It doesn’t just have to fit the thing that you know you’re capable of doing today…. that’s why I don’t believe in limitations of genre or limitations of creativity in any way.

Jon Batiste

Sometimes the highest hurdles are the limits we impose on ourselves. Congrats to Jon Batiste on his Grammy success. And congrats to YOU on your continued success in whatever path you choose.

Here’s Jon Batiste’s full interview on the Broken Record podcast:

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who’s the best at Pickleball?

It’s me! I’m the best at pickleball!

OK, I’d better pump the brakes on that superlative. In all honesty and modesty, Cary and I are the best. Oh sure, we were in the 3.0 bracket at the local pickleball tournament this weekend….and that’s the lowest possible level. But that makes us the best of the worst, right? Besides, we tried to get into the higher 3.5 bracket, but it was full. So we weren’t really sandbagging too much… more like sand-pouching.

We were rookies – it was our first tourney. But it’s kinda hard to call us “rookies” when we have a combined 132 years of living under our (Sansa)belts. We’re a mirror image team: I’m 57 and Cary’s 75.

There were 12 teams in our bracket, split into two six-team pools for round-robin play. The top two teams from each pool advanced to the “medal round.” Cary and I won our first five matches before losing to two young whippersnappers 15-9. But our record was good enough to get us to the next round, where we knocked off the #1 team from the other pool, then had a rematch against the whippersnappers… and WE won, 15-9!

I’m such an anti-competitive dude that my first thought was that the whippersnappers got screwed.. (Actually, that was my second thought – my first thought was “holy schnikes, I can’t believe we won!”) We both had the same record, and we split our head-to-head matches by identical scores. But we won when all money was on the line (the whopping $30 gift certificate!).

This isn’t really a pickleball story, though. Cary’s originally from Cadiz, Ohio, a coal-mining town in Eastern Ohio (near scenic Steubenville!). His dad worked for the coal company, and Cary’s first job was at the mines. But he was a pretty good baseball player. In high school, he played against future major league star Thurman Munson, future NFL receiver Danny Abramowicz, and longtime MLB coach Rich Donnelly. Cary got a baseball scholarship to Bowling Green State University, in western Ohio, and, in his own words, “it changed my life.”

Cary was able to escape the inexorable future of most of his classmates — a life of back-breaking, unforgiving labor in the coal mines — and get a college degree. He wound up working with “big data” and teaching statistics classes – 20 years at Bowling Green and 20 more at the University of Cincinnati. He met his wife in his first year of working for BGSU, when she was a student there and working as a waitress. They have a son and daughter-in-law and two grandsons who live in Indy. Cary volunteers at a local YMCA, teaching pickleball to beginners.

The Harvards and Stanfords get all the prestige of higher education. But let’s not discount the role of the “mid-major” state schools that offer scholarships and semi-affordable tuition to first-generation college students. They are changing life trajectories… and therefore changing the world.

I’ve learned quite a bit about Cary, and if it weren’t for pickleball, he’d be just another face in the crowd…. some random old dude. Yes, I’ve heard all the “pickleball is for old people” jokes. But the older folks I’ve met through the sport are great people, with interesting stories to tell. Maybe you should try pickleball. Or maybe you can just spend a bit more time with some seniors, and get to know their stories. You just might learn something.

Cary’s a good dude who also happens to be a pretty darn good pickleball player. If I’m lucky enough to reach the age of 75, I hope folks say the same thing about me.

Run Baby Run. But don’t leave.

Sorry for the extra helping of sports posts, but I can’t help myself. The scrappy, tough kids from St. Peter’s University in Jersey-freakin-City just knocked off Purdue last night to make their way to the NCAA Elite Eight. The Peacocks (yes, that’s the mascot) are the first #15 seed to make it this far.

From this great article by Steve Politi on NJ.com

The team’s tiny home gymnasium, on their puny campus, is called “Run Baby Run Arena.” And yesterday was “National Peacock Day.” You can’t make stuff like that up.

Guard Doug Edert has become the toast of the tourney due to his stellar play AND his cheesy mustache.

The Peacocks coach, Shaheen Holloway, has impressed everyone with his strategic savvy and his cool demeanor.

It’s thrilling. It’s magical. It’s Madness!

That’s the heartwarming part of the story. But here’s a bucket of cold water: Shaheen Holloway will be gone shortly after the “Run Baby Run” run is over.

Holloway was a point guard for Seton Hall back in the late 90s. Seton Hall’s coach, Kevin Willard, just left the Garden State for the greener pasture$ of the University of Maryland. And, in a move that was ill-advised, poorly-timed and downright stupid, Willard practically anointed Holloway as his successor even though St. Peter’s was still in the tourney:

So if Kevin Willard’s happiness is high on your wish list, congrats! But for the rest of America (i.e. those not named “Kevin Willard”)… and especially for the kids who are playing their hearts out for St. Peter’s University right now, and the entire school and all of its alums, it stinks. They’re having the time of their lives… but they know it’ll be over soon.

Kevin Willard’s base salary at Seton Hall was $2.5 million. Shaheen Holloway made $266,344 in 2019. You certainly can’t fault a guy for leaving for a job at his alma mater, in a much better conference, on a much bigger stage, for 10X what he makes now. We’re happy for Holloway, but it gives this Cinderella story an unhappy ending for the Peacocks.

Community. Theater.

When Mrs. Dubbatrubba and I were in New York recently, we took in a Broadway show.

Sidebar: I don’t know why you have to say “took in” when you’re talking about attending a B-way show. — it sounds like you’re adopting a stray cat or adjusting the waistline of your Sansabelt slacks — but it’s the law.

We “took in” The Book of Mormon. (Go figure, even when I try to add some culture to my normally Neanderthal-like existence, I wind up watching something South Park-related.)

You probably wouldn’t peg me as a Broadway musical kind of guy, and you’re right. I tend to lean more towards indie concerts in small clubs, not the neon lights of the Great White Way. But I loved The Book of Mormon. Sure, it was funny… in fact it’s irreverent as heck… but it also was semi-poignant.

When you see a musical live, you get a tremendous appreciation for the talent of the performers and the craft of the creators and crew. The music, the lyrics, the choreography… the talent is off the charts.

photo credit: New York Times

Putting together a Broadway show ain’t cheap, especially if it’s a musical. There’s an orchestra, elaborate sets, costumes, special effects… and only about one in five shows actually makes money for its investors. You’d have better luck playing Three-card Monte.

The stuff happening on stage is special, but there’s something very special about the audience too. There’s a sort of alchemy that happens when hundreds are folks are in the same theater. And unlike sports, they’re all rooting for the same team. Experiencing a play in a communal setting is magical. We all could probably use a bit more more time spent watching stages and less time spent staring at screens.

Broadway may be out of reach — geographically and/or economically — but there’s great community theater in pretty much every decent-sized town in this country (except maybe Orlando… sorry, The Book of Mormon joke). The shows may have slightly less glitz and glamor, but they’ve got just as much heart.

Get off your couch and get to a theater (or theatre… or even cafeteria) soon. It’ll put more unity in your community.

There was only one slight bummer to our Broadway experience: We didn’t get to see Kyle Selig as Elder Price. Kyle is the fiancé of my first cousin once removed, Erika Henningsen… who starred as Cady Heron in Mean Girls on Broadway (that’s where she and Kyle met), and plays Young Gloria in the Hulu series Girls5Eva. Kyle first starred in The Book of Mormon many years ago, but recently came to the rescue for a two-week fill-in stint when COVID hit the cast.

That’s OK, we can catch Kyle in eight episodes of the new FOX TV series Welcome to Flatch – it premiers tomorrow night at 9:30 p.m. Eastern.

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato… Hell Yes!

In case you missed this Twitter thread from John Darnielle, the lead singer of The Mountain Goats, when it came out on New Year’s Eve:

In 2022, may we all find moments when we can appreciate “the ten trillion small things that ease the path a little — colors, shades, sounds, flavors, sensations, moods, fleeting thoughts, moments of transcendence when you’re very lucky…”

Warren Zevon taught us to “enjoy every sandwich.” Now John Darnielle has taught us to enjoy every potato. Will it be enough to get us through another year? Hell yes!

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