Boston Rob for President

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Once again I find myself disgusted with American politics, the media, the shrill voices on both Nancy Pelosi - ear plugs please! sides of the political landscape, and a public that hastens to despise big business yet completely trusts in big government.

So, in keeping with my opinion that “undecided” voters are attracted to candidates that they would most want to have over for dinner, I asked myself, “Self? Of all the celebrities, who would might make the best and most surprising leap Rob Marianointo the Presidency?”

Boston Rob.  No, I haven’t given any thought to other candidates.  My brain said “Boston Rob,” and I didn’t feel the need to tax it any further.  Well, okay then.

Who is Boston Rob?  Survivor fans know him well.  Yep, he’s a reality game show contestant, extraordinaire.

Next step.  What qualifications make a great President?  Yahoo responded with 10 traits, which we’ll address:

1) Intelligence.  He graduated from Boston University.  He’s not as smart as Bill Clinton, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  If you watch the show, you know he’s smart enough. Having hosted a “scientific inquiry” show, we also know he’s not closed to the universe’s possibilities, asking important questions, such as mystery of Bigfoot, Mothman, and Roswell for example.

2) Knowledge of current and historical events – Boston Rob makes every effort to keep current with what is going on in his environment, carefully keeping track of forces for and against.  It’s also evident that he remembers his previous trips to Survivor and has learned from the pitfalls of past experience.  He’s not doomed to repeat them.

3) Organizational skills – An area for improvement, but we don’t necessarily get to see these skills on Survivor.  He’s good at classification, at least, aptly labeling “Bonehead” Russell.  But as Russell- the Boneheadseen on two different celebrity poker tournaments, he can organize his cards, and he knows what beats what.

4) Good communicator – He speaks well, and effectively, too.  Just watch him lead his team through a puzzle competition, giving clear direction on who should do what, how they should do it, and how quickly they should shut up.  He’s also comfortable in front of a camera, and he doesn’t need to ink notes on his hand for speaking points.

5) Integrity – Boston Rob has improved in this area, understanding that you want to keep your friends close and your enemies closer – until you vote them off.  He does what he says he’ll do, but, like a political candidate, he may leave out some pertinent details.  An example might be:  “I promise I’ll take you to the end.” then thinks “unless I find that I need to do something else.”  He’s not deluding himself, or others.  He’s being a politician.   As in Highlander, “In the end, there can be only one.”  So he’s as innocent, or as guilty, as anyone else who plays Survivor well. 

6) Courage – dehydration, bruises, cuts – these frailties hinder mortal men, but not Boston Rob, who outperforms anyone when a game is afoot.  Survivor is not a PT-109, but he has staked his claim.

7) Diplomatic skills – Would you have guessed that he has a degree in Psychology?  Diplomacy remains another area for improvement, but he’s working at it.  We’ve seen him coaching Coach with his soft skills, yet he’s also effective in more aggressive “counseling.”   And if he fails at times, I think it’s okay to have a leader who will tell an adversary exactly what he thinks.  Besides, politicians, aside from Joe Biden or Dan Quayle, pretty much just read the cue cards, and Boston Rob and AmberRob has succeeded without a script.

8) Charisma – Amber.  Case closed.  And, if that’s still not enough, he takes the lead and people just get over their own delusions of grandeur.  They know they’re going to win.

9) Perseverance – He puts up with a lot of incompetent, whining, pathetic people, doesn’t he?  Could Congress be much different?

Bo Knows 10) Strong work ethic – A former construction worker, Boston Rob knows work like Bo used to know baseball.

So, who can check the box beside his name?  As Boston Rob is from Beantown, many can assume that he is, by default, a liberal.  And, clearly, he wins favor as a working class guy, for whom most governmental expenditures are justified.  40% of the populace will approve, whether registered, unregistered, or deceased.

Conservatives can favor his contempt for the Socialist state, as evidenced by his lack of tolerance for lazy teammates.  He also does not bow to the altar of political correctness, having been both a bartender and a poker player.  40% of the voting public will approve.  Right wing Christians may have some objections verbally, but like at a liquor store before a party, they’ll be all in.

So, either side of the aisle, Democrat or Republican, can feel justified that Boston Rob is the Bonehead Russell right guy for them, as anyone running against would necessarily be labeled a “Bonehead Russell.”  The press can readily vilify this opponent as a conniving, self-important manipulator and destructive force, just like all those people in that “other” party who are a few cards short of a full deck.

That leaves the undecided voters, for whose benefit we first nominated Boston Rob.  Who would they rather have over for dinner?  Boston Rob?  Or a Bonehead Russell?   The choice is obvious.

Rule #1 in evaluating any study, opinion or Yodafinding:  What were the assumptions made before the evidence was revealed or a conclusion made?  Wise to ask, you are.

I recognize that there may be an objection to limiting this candidate search to a celebrity, or, for that matter, to not excluding celebrities. Ronald Reagan was arguably the last successful conversion to politics  (performance generally regarded based on your personal political bias), though Bill Clinton’s sax Clinton on Arsenioon Arsenio Hall can’t be dismissed.  Given the state of the State of California, Reagan certainly outguns The Terminator.  My assumption was that a celebrity was needed to persuade the voters in the middle.  Little did I know that Boston Rob would be so effective for the polarizing forces to either side!  Incredibly, as celebrities go, Boston Rob does not succumb to celebrity stereotypes.  He neither suffers neither from Paris Hilton’s self-absorbed condescension nor Gary Coleman’s descent to pathetic footnote, or their ilk.  Worthy, indeed.

Rule #2 in evaluating any study, opinion or finding:  Who paid for it?

Why, both of us, with our time.  Sorry about that.

Conclusion:  Given the transparency of three seasons of Survivor and one Amazing Race, it’s clear that as celebrities go, Boston Rob is well grounded in Reality, has the necessary traits for success, and has a singular bipartisan appeal.  Boston Rob is an exemplary candidate for the Office of the President.

Note: In scientific terms, hypotheses are sustainedSurvivor Torch by repeatable observations of identical findings.  Am I alone in sifting through the US populace to arrive at Boston Rob as President?  No.  A Google search reveals that a Facebook group named “Boston Rob for President” already exists.  The movement is on!  Join now!  The Tribe has spoken.

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Joetlanta 2010

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Sure, it was a new to me as well.  But, for a drizzly Sunday, I was happy to accompany an old (but young at heart) college friend to the 10th GI Joe Action Figure and Toy Show held here in Atlanta.

I don’t know if many saw an irony, but for an event where grown men attend a show that 51% of the population might consider to be about dolls, signs indicated that another group was also in residence. Hmm.

Well, first, it bears noting that GI Joes are not dolls.  It’s clearly stated in the name of the event that these are action figures.  I myself had a Spiderman action figure once upon a moon, but would never have been caught dead playing with a doll.  A critic, necessarily female, may try to equate the two as often and annoyingly as she might like, but guys understand the difference and refuse to point fingers at our brothers who enjoy them… because we know they’re action figures!

The show primarily includes dealer tables, which, as expected, would feature GI Joe action figures, their action garments, their action accessories, their action military vehicles, and, of course, replacement parts.

Click for more Joepictures

Not surprisingly, the audience was almost entirely male, except for dealers’ spouses and daughters.  All generations were present, but most tended to be in their 40’s – 60’s, now in the prime of their Joe purchasing power.  One dealer (and they came from as far away as Minneapolis) stated the obvious, “Go ahead and look.  Relive your childhood.” 

A fine example:

Movie and TV Greatness, plus the Kiss guy.

We have above C3PO, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Jamie Sommers (Bionic Woman), Steve Austin (6 Million Dollar Man), and Gene Simmons, a 70’s assortment of Superstars.  But that’s not to say that GI Joe’s were not in abundance.

GI Joes

Another aspect of the Show was what we males understand to be dioramas.  These are clearly something completely separate from doll houses, because doll houses are occupied by dolls and dioramas are occupied by expertly placed, static representations of action scenes using action figures.  Each Joetlanta features a different hand built diorama, and below is the 2010 entry:

And here is an action scene within said diorama:

Go, good guys! Some people spend lots of $ on their dioramas, and this was just the place to buy some very spiffy hand built models as below.

 

Not impressed?  Let’s zoom in for the finer detailing:

It’s not all for the adults, however.  Quite a few youngsters were lugging bags of “stuff,” Boy posing with a very life-like action figuresufficient evidence that the older generation is preparing the younger in the joys of action figures

Other than the $6 price of admission, did I fall prey to the enticements?  Action figures?  Comics? Old board games? Plastic model kits? Well, not really.  The few toy robots on hand weren’t quite spiffy enough, but I did score a couple cool refrigerator magnets.

Just groovy.

More pictures can be seen HERE.

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Jason Isbell – Live @ Smiths Olde Bar

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Last year, it seemed every time I turned around, I was reviewing something related to my favorite Southern Rock band,  the Drive-By Truckers.  This included a DBT CD, a solo project by its leader, a “rare tracks” CD, and a solo CD by a former member.

It’s 2010, and not much has changed.  I’ve already been to a DBT concert, listened to their new (soon to be reviewed) CD, and attended the subject of this post, a concert by their former member.  They’re all really good musicians, but they’re taking up a lot of my time!

It’s a good thing I like their stuff.  And so it was Wednesday night that I saw Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit perform “acoustic” at Smith’s Olde Bar, a long lived venue for local and emerging artists.  The first floor of Smith’s is a restaurant and bar, which (aside from the cigarette smoke), is the type of refuge that I can only dream of being a short walk from my house.  Great bar food, a good variety of beers, pool tables, dart boards, song selections, great vibe… and then there’s the second floor with a stage of sufficient size and room enough for 300 people.

First, in the event that my time-proven “concert buddy” should read this, he’s on thin ice.  He’s 0-3 after this show despite his best intentions.  Bah humbug.  So, instead I invited one of my best friends, who hasn’t been to a concert since the dinosaurs walked the earth and who, not surprisingly, has never heard of Jason Isbell.  Yet, on a couple hours notice, he said “yes” to a departure from his weeknight routine.  Thanks!

We arrived early, and after tasty and sizable burgers, aided with various draughts, we headed upstairs 15 minutes after the doors opened.  Sadly, the only nearest available table was 4’ to the left of front and center, so we had to settle for slightly left and center, a real hardship… 

Around 9:00, Abbie Owens and Vic Stanley opened the entertainment.  Owens on first look seems young enough to assume that she’s inexperienced.  However, the arriving crowd were quick to buy Vic Stanley, Jason Isbell, Abbie Owensinto her music, which centered on fairly catchy acoustic rock or alt-country tunes, with a distinctive soulful voice.  Stanley accompanied her on lead guitar, and their voices melded well.  Most of her songs were originals, but covers of Springsteen and Little Feat shone as well.   Isbell watched early from the side, and he joined for several songs in the middle of their set. 

Isbell and crew took the stage soaking up what had become a sizable crowd.  One obvious carryover from his DBT days is the shared bottle of Jack Daniels, but otherwise, even when covering his older songs, it was obvious that this was Isbell’s show, not a restated DBT.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit

That’s not to say that the 400 unit wasn’t great. Accompanying guitarist, Browan Lollar, played many great lead lines and was otherwise a study of restrained motion seated in his chair.  Bassist Jimbo Hart was always into the groove, and Derry deBorja’s keyboards were always tasteful and supportive of the tone.  The drummer played each song perfectly, but, as importantly, loud enough to keep the crowd in check.  Lollar also led a cover of “Psycho Killer,” which was a great inclusion.  It was ample proof that an “acoustic” show by no means implies low volume.

Lollar and Isbell

Isbell plays with no pretenses – there’s no Bono grandstanding, and no star treatment is expected.  As concerts go, he spoke with the crowd more than most, and he was clearly enjoying the acoustic approach to his songs.  He played a good variety of songs from his two solo CDs, including “In a Razor Town,” Jason Isbell “The  Magician,” “Try,” “Grown,” “Cigarettes and Wine,” “Soldiers Get Strange,” and a rousing “Chicago Promenade.”

His DBT era songs received more audience response, naturally, but it was clear that each of these songs are, and always have been, Isbell’s.  He included “Decoration Day,” “TVA,” “The Day John Henry Died,” a stirring “Danko/Manuel,” “Goddamn Lonely Love,” and my favorite, “Outfit.”

The sound was great, and it was awesome to watch a very talented artist perform in such an intimate setting.

Following are a sampling of videos for those with an interest.  Additional photos of the show can be viewed by clicking HERE.

 

Abbie Owens:

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Atlanta Thrashers

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In 1999, I went to my first Thrashers game.  It was something new and exciting, and it rekindled an interest in the sport that had surfaced only once before, the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.”  I’ve tried taking my wife and my son, neither of whom particularly enjoy sports, and walked away accepting that hockey, or, indeed, the unscripted intrigue of athletic competition, meant beans to them.

But then there’s my daughter who has been my reliable  sports buddy, a discernible sign that God listens and answers prayers, at least for the most important sport (football) and hockey (if seen live).  And then there’s my substitute son, Paco-Frankie –Patrick, who I recruited to the fold.  And then there’s his dad, Tom.  And that, folks, equals a Chik-fil-A 4-ticket combo package for a game at Philips Arena.

We’ve suffered a lot at Thrashers games through the years.  They’re currently in their 11th year of a five year plan to be a playoff hockey team.  Sure, the General Manager would point out that they made the playoffs once, but an 0-4 record that one year hardly qualifies as the Promised Land.  Yet, he keeps his job.

In short, they’ve had some very good players over the years, but they’ve never had a great team, or even a very good team, or even a consistently entertaining team.  As soon as you see a good game, beware the next as your hopes may be massacred.  Hockey tickets aren’t cheap, and it’s difficult to pay $ for a history of general ineptitude (plus more than a little bad luck).

So, after all these years, I finally got smart.  Instead of suffering through the trials and tribulations of following the team through a (very lengthy) full season, why not risk all my hopes and expectations on one single game?  If they play well, it’s a great memory!  If they lose, then there’s always next year.  And, after all, the hockey experience is at least worth one outing a year, just ask all the Atlanta fans who go just that often.  Why didn’t anyone tell me?

Philips Arena is a great venue for sports.  Though now aging as it enters its second decade, it still dazzles the uninitiated.  Hockey notwithstanding, views from most seats rate at least “good,” the video panel circling the arena is flashy, the vertical wall of corporate (translated: half empty) seats and boxes is as awesome as it is awkward, suspended Thrasher heads bellow flame that can be felt from the seats when goals are scored, the score board videos are often entertaining, there’s plenty of silly competitions during the timeouts, the Thrash mascot works hard at creating enthusiasm (though he doesn’t have great aim; he has yet to shoot a T-shirt my way), the food is…   Well, wait.  I guess I’m done.  Don’t let me fool you.  The food is generic, awful, and expensive.  But you don’t have to eat there.  And, we didn’t.

Philips Arena

For our “one game is the season outing,” the Thrashers played the dreaded Philadelphia Flyers, who for the past 10 years have more or less owned the Thrashers, until this year (Thrashers 4-0 at the time of this writing).  Still, the Thrashers, now literally without any superstar talent, happen to play well (other than on those nights when they don’t), and after losing 6 games in a Thrash rallying the fansrow to fall from playoff contention, then winning their most recent two, would it be Jekyll or Hyde this night?

What we saw was an action packed (translated: fist fight in the first 30 seconds) game, two fist fights by the time it was 1-0 Thrashers, and perhaps 5 fights by the time the Thrashers won 5-2. 

And, that is a change this year.  In the past, there haven’t been many fights.  Sure, the fights are stupid and players rarely connect before sliding to the ice, but it is, in a way, a measure of their spiritedness in the game – something lacking for years.   There were other changes as well, such as no heart stopping defensive lapses, almost defying what it means to be a Thrashers’ defenseman.  “Rabid Fan,” a long time glass banger, was nowhere to be seen, nor were Braveheart or two aging long haired rockers that would drain their beers on command.  When you become a hockey fan, you get to know the crowd.  Something new, though.  Now the Star Wars “Empire Theme” now plays when a number of fans don their Storm Trooper helmets.  Go figure.  But amidst the families, drunks, business movers, and light and diehard fans, that’s hockey.  Oh, and amidst the hundreds of fans pulling for the visiting team, the second most telling aspect that the Thrashers haven’t played to a level to sustain a fan base (the first being the empty seats).

One thing has remained the same:  The KissCam, spotlighting couples around the rink that must kiss on the video board, usually awkwardly, before the camera will move on.  This series always closes on a couple of male losers sporting jerseys from the other team.  Best though, is a fine elderly couple who seem to have attended almost every game I’ve Thrasherfansseen, kissing in a confidant and elegant style.  Kudos.  And the crowd applauds, because, as I’ve said, hockey fans know their crowd.

But change is in the air, and not just the rumored “For Sale” sign dangling from the absentee owner’s Rolls Royces.  Depending on where my sports buddy daughter chooses to go to college, opportunities to go to Thrasher games may be very limited going forward, but this, at least, was a winning trip to mark the passing of an era.

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The Moody Blues – Live at The Fox

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There are only a handful of bands/artists that my wife and I would like to see together, which is more the result of my particular interests.  So when The Moody Blues announced a date in Atlanta, it seemed like a good idea to revisit some old favorites.  We had seen them at an amphitheater in the early ‘90’s, and I had seen them in high school back in 1981 on their Long Distance Voyager tour.

Thus motivated for a “we” outing, I camped at the computer at 10:00 a.m. one Saturday morning when the tickets went on sale, damn the Ticketmaster fees and full speed ahead.  At 10:01, I’m staring at tickets somewhere around row KK.  I mean, really?  They sold rows A-Z and AA-JJ just that fast?

No.

My wife has had one other concert experience at the Fox, which is a remarkable venue but one that can be sonically challenged.  She wasn’t interested in sitting in the nose bleed sections, and neither was I. So, I had to do better than row double whatever, and I feared Ticketmaster had allotted all the prime seats to the kind resellers who prey upon people who like to go out.

Thinking creatively, I went to the Moodies fan club site, and, lo and behold, a special assortment of tickets were available.  In short, they were guaranteed to be in the first 10 rows and came with a T-shirt, pins and other garbage, for the low, low price of way too much but not as much as would be charged by scalpers.  Fuelled by a competitive spirit to stick it to Ticketmaster’s malevolent dictatorship, sure.  Okay.

Fast forward a bit.  I’m channel surfing a week before the show, and there’s a 2001 Moodies concert being played on the local PBS station.  As anyone knows, PBS stations play concerts so that people will actually tune in, and then they interrupt the programming every 20 minutes for a donation drive featuring a panel of smiling faces waiting by the phones for your call.

As it turns out, The Moodies signed over 1500 prime seats to the PBS station to be used for their fundraiser, essentially Rows A through double whatever.  So, as much as I wanted to blame Ticketmaster for profiteering shenanigans, I can’t.  This time.

As my concert reviews go, I usually detour to the gastric aspects beforehand, and this is no exception.  We stopped at OK Cafe, on West Paces Ferry Road.  Turns out that this is a local icon which I somehow missed.  Not to worry - everyone 55 and older seems to know about it and they haven’t suffered for my lack of knowledge.  It’s a diner atmosphere with country food offerings.  It has a surprisingly large seating area, which was needed for the corresponding surprisingly large number of people either eating or waiting to be seated.  Meatloaf, black-eyed peas, cabbage, cornbread, and a glass of sugar mixed with ice and tea, and you get the picture. In short, visitors to Atlanta would be better served to skip the Varsity and eat at the OK Cafe, despite a Po Folks x 1.5 pricing metric.

On to the titular concert.  One aspect of ordering through the fan club site was that tickets were delivered “Will Call,” presumably to prevent “fans” from scalping tickets to presumably great seats.  (drum roll…) And the lottery says!:  Row F!  That’s the sixth row…except for the additional six rows of temporary seats that they placed in front of Row A, but who’s counting?

Of the band’s core 5 members, one left in the 70’s and another retired sometime in the past 10 years.  That leaves three, two primary songwriters and singers (Justin Hayward and John Lodge) and drummer Graeme Edge.  They’ve supplemented Justin Hayward, Graeme Edgethe band with a keyboardist, an additional drummer/percussionist, a female backup singer, and a very talented flutist/backup singer. 

The concert began at 8:15 with “The Voice,” which I believe was the first song they played when I saw them in 1981.  Only 29 years ago?  The concert began well enough although it included a couple clunkers from their later albums, but then it abruptly stopped after 45 minutes (!) for a 20 minute intermission.

This is an appropriate time to remark that I’m somewhat used to hanging on to the tail end of the baby boomer’s generation of great musical acts.  This concert was no exception, but I remain proud to be part of the Moodies’ youth movement.  I’m still undecided if the band actually needed a break, as they didn’t appear to be particularly winded, dehydrated, hunched over or searching for oxygen masks.  In fact, they were fairly energetic.  So I’m left to assume that the intermission was for the audience’s  benefit, as the back screen reminded us throughout that T-Shirts and other memorabilia were available in the lobby.

The Moody Blues

Notwithstanding the interruption to the established good vibe, Hayward and Lodge were both in surprisingly good voice.  Lodge doesn’t attempt the falsettos any longer, but it all works out fine with the backup singers.  He and Edge appeared to relish the interaction with the crowd, while Hayward appeared appreciative for the adoration but as yet unwilling to conduct himself as someone going through the motions.  In fact, he didn’t, with strong vocals and almost flawless guitars.  For that matter, Lodge remains a nimble and fleet bassist.

The band covered their more commercial songs (“The Other Side of Life,” “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere,” “Driftwood” and, to a lesser extent, “Steppin’ in a Slide Zone”) as well as a good mix of their classic work.

“Nights in White Satin” was clearly the crowd favorite, which is not surprising as it basically made their careers all those years ago.  From the same album, Days of the Future Passed, they also played “Tuesday Afternoon” and an inspired “Peak Hour.”

Others included “The Story in Your Eyes,” a trippy “Higher and Higher,” “Gypsy,” an obscure “Are You Sitting Comfortably,” “Ride My See Saw,” “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band),” “Isn’t Life Strange” and “Question.”

Probably the most memorable moment was when Graeme Edge addressed the audience, pointing out that he would celebrate his 69th birthday during the current tour.   He commented, thus, that he got to live through the ‘60’s twice, and that 69 remains his favorite number.  And on those subjects, he held up his index and middle fingers in a V, and said “In the 60’s, this used to be the peace symbol.  Now it’s a symbol for {in a throaty voice} Viagra.  The drug of choice may have changed, but it’s still about sex, drugs, and rock and roll.”

Bravo.

Additional photos HERE.

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A Matter of Convenience

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I was following a coworker recently who reminded me how often one can use a turn signal.  Right turn signal at the end of a parking lot row, left turn signal at a painted stop line in the parking lot, right turn signal at the stop sign… on and on it goes.  And all of this without other vehicles nearby.  After commenting turnsignal_mirror_1 on this, his reply was basically that he was teaching the world to use turn signals one intersection at a time.

So, I’m using mine more often now, and I’m certainly more consistent at doing this when other cars or pedestrians are in the area.  That’s a good thing.  Because, like everyone else, when trying to pull into traffic, I hate waiting for a car to pass only to find that he turns short of me.   “Use your signal, idiot! I could have gone already!”

I’m one of those conflicted people who enjoy driving but hate traffic.  A smooth ride, a proper ergonomic fit within the driver’s seat, strong acceleration, handling turns at slightly higher than advised speeds, high fidelity audio… good stuff.

Traffic?  Meh.

Is it strictly the number of vehicles on the road and their corresponding brake lights?  No.  Atlanta has its share of heavy volume; you get used to it.  Rather, it’s the traffic lights.  You’re bopping along and suddenly a light changes in front of you, In London, but an art piece - it just stirs up warm and fuzzy feelingswith no other cars at the intersection.  “What gives?”  Same situation but one car is there.  “Of all the luck.”

My in-laws had some German friends visiting years ago.  They went to a shopping center, bought whatever, took their bags to the car, got into the car and then drove to the other end of the shopping center to go into another store.  Their German friends were fairly stunned that, rather than driving, they wouldn’t just walk the short distance to the other end of the shopping center.  Aside from arguments regarding exercise and fuel efficiency, the heart of the matter was convenience.

Americans are all about convenience.  Drive thrus, Ticketmaster (convenience charges, right?),Chinese take-out mail boxes at the end of our driveways, personal printers on our office desks, Chinese take-out… not to mention Convenience stores. 

We call them conveniences, but as wasteful as they are in some ways, they’re also each about efficiency.  What’s the value of our time?  Whether it’s chores, work, entertainment, quality time, or a Sunday nap, we pack a lot into our days.  Finding the means to shorten or avoid those things that we don’t want to do in favor of those that we do matters.

So, I’m running some errands before picking my kids up from a school event.  Again.  I, of course, tried to see if a neighbor could bring them back, but no such convenience was to be found.

It’s lunch time.  And I’m also hungry as my morning bagel is long forgotten.  So, I start thinking about the restaurant options available between here and there.  Let’s see. 

Burger King:  Whopper, Jr?  Check.  Fries?  Lousy. 

Hmm. Next would be McDonald’s!  Fries?  Check.  Burgers?  Lousy. 

What else is there?  Quik-Trip?  Hot Dogs, Taquitos… no.  I’m not yet down to my spare coins.

Are there no other options?  Why, yes!  There’s Taco Bell (no), Checker’s (maybe), and yes!  Chik-fil-A! 

But… (insert whiny voice), they’re on the wrong side of the road!  It’s such a pain to turn left because you have to wait for the traffic light to cycle for your turn, and after getting your food you have to wait all over again for the light to let you out… ugh.  Left turns are what make errands take forever.chik-fil-a sandwich

But, Chik-fil-A… That’s worth  an extra five minutes of my life, isn’t it? 

Yes, there is a train of thought here.  First, it struck me how often I tend to think of stopping on the right side of the road (fast food, gas, supermarkets, etc.) because of an ingrained sense of inefficiency at any prospect of turning left.  Being on the right side of the road is to be not only directional but desirable.  Secondly, I don’t know that I fully appreciated howwaffle house often I settle for less just because it’s more convenient.

I’m not alone.  Around Atlanta, it’s common to find two Waffle Houses on each side of an interstate exit so that people traveling in either direction won’t have to turn around.  Commercial parcel values are also sensitive to ease of access during peak traffic hours.  But, I really didn’t realize how well I had subconsciously programmed myself to think in those terms.

And those traffic lights I hate?  It’s easy to forget that they do stop cars from running into each other.  And, they benefit me just as often as they (aggravatingly) slow me down.

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Drive-By Truckers – Variety Playhouse

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I last saw DBT during their “Dirty South” tour in 2004.  It was an energetic and rocking evening, blessed with recent material from a string of three great albums.

Since then, they’ve released two average-at-best albums and changed the band’s lineup somewhat.  Now they’re back to touring in support of their upcoming release, “The Big To-Do.”  The Truckers are an experienced road band.  They never disappear for long, and they have a dedicated fan base as evidenced by two sold-out shows at Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse.  I attended the first.

I met a friend and his wife for a burger at Brewhouse Cafe, a proven and reliable pit-stop for a hamburger and beer before a show.   This was no exception, despite a rather disappointing selection of pale ales on tap.

We arrived to find many gathered in the lobby, drinking beers.  This was likely due to the opening act, David Barbe & The Quick Hooks, who were already into their set.  Barbe is the DBT’s producer, and his band included guitarist John Neff and drummer Brad Morgan from DBT, as well as two other musicians.  Unfortunately, the songs were rather plodding, and despite his enthusiasm for the moment, Barbe’s voice is an off-putting whine.  But better things were to come.

Drive-By Truckers

After a half hour break, DBT took the stage, a shared bottle of Jack Daniels and various beers in tow.  The set list started mainly with new songs from their forthcoming CD, but the lyrics were lost to me as the sound up front wasn’t kind on the vocals.  Even Patterson Hood though the riffs and attitude spoke of good songs to shortly be heard, it’s inevitably their keenly observant lyrics on Southern life that make or break their songs. 

Patterson Hood remains the front man for the band, full of “damn the system” attitude, which is where he writes from when he’s at his best.  When he’s  not singing or playing a lead, he checks out the crowdMike Cooley with an evident appreciation  for the life he has chosen for himself.  

Co-founder Mike Cooley is as much a fan favorite due to his intellectually redneck songs as his distinctive guitar playing mannerisms.  Shonna Tucker, the bassist, also sang several songs.   She did not appear entirely comfortable taking the lead, and her microphone didn’t help her relatively soft voice compete with the three raging guitars of her bandmates.

John Neff, a relatively stoic presence, added some nice slide guitar, but also alternates leads with Cooley.  He also played pedal steel on several songs, to as good effect as pedal steel can hope to be heard.  Newcomer Jay Gonzalez added keyboard  flourishes which added colorful tones on slower songs.John Neff  But overall, DBT is a band built to rock, and they did just that, loudly.

The band covered many of their older songs, though now with a large back catalog from which to choose, many good songs, like “Daddy’s Cup,” were skipped.  However, standouts included “The Living Bubba” and “18 Wheels of Love” Jay Gonzalez from Gangstabilly, “Ronnie and Neal” and “Women Without Whiskey” from Southern Rock Opera, “Sinkhole” and “Marry Me” from Decoration Day, “Tornadoes” and “Lookout Mountain” from The Dirty South, “Three Dimes Down” and “Self Destructive Zones” from Brighter than Creation’s Dark,  “Play it All Night Long”  from The Fine Print, and a rocking cover, of course, of Neil Young’s “Rocking in theCooley's Mini-bar Free World.”  The beer-enabled crowd was responsive throughout, singing along with many of the songs, more than several pounding out each song with upraised fists.

The band’s main set lasted over two hours, after which Patterson Hood looked exhausted as he left the stage without a wave.  About 15 minutes later, Hood showed no wear as they returned for a seven song encore, the best of which was “Lookout Mountain.”  It might be said that he gave all he could give as afterwards, Hood again hurried off, clearly Cooley & Hoodworn out.  Cooley, with a rock star thin frame and attitude born for long nights, waved to the crowd, bottle of bourbon in hand.

 

Overall, it was a loaded 3 hour performance for a $25 ticket, and a very late night.

Why the house lights are kept low.

Additional concert photos are available by clicking ---> HERE.

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Key West – Day 3

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Remaining assumptions regarding Key West to be challenged:

1. Parking would be a problem.

2. It would be an artsy community.

3. The homeless would be abundant and, not to offend, a nuisance.

4. Duval Street would be as seedy and off-smelling as Bourbon St.

5. Key Lime Pie would be good, but not anything special.

I awoke early, ready to make use of the morning light for taking photographs.  As my wife remained in her slumber, I walked.  And walked.  It’s just that kind of town. 

You get a different sense of a place when the hustle and bustle are at low tide.  There is free parking available in the main tourist areas, if you get up early and park for the day.  For people staying in historic area, it’s just made for walking.  Sure, some rent bicycles or scooters, but it’s really not needed.

One of the iconic attractions of Key West is the Conch Tour Train. This is a guided tour of the island showing the sights, history, and local color.  There are many of these trains constantly going  around, but I was surprised to see that they were all full at an early hour.  A fewConch Tour Train blocks this and that a way later, and I found that 2 cruise ships had arrived.

I also found a craft show, an annual affair hosting an assortment of artisans in their white tents along a street.  This was not something I was excited to find, but rather something I felt obligated to report to my wife, a crafter for 10 years.  No surprise, I would later find out that she knew two exhibitors pretty well.

I took a sufficient number of photos to pat myself on the back for actually sticking to an early morning intention.  All the photos can be found HERE (some with commentary), but I’ll just highlight a few here for the fun of it.

Blue Sophia Jewelry, just off Duval St.  The sign indicates Atocha Coins, 14 kt Gold, Diamond, Emerald, Ruby, Sapphire, Jewelry Repair…  Well, okay.  I’m not going to doubt the abilities of anyone who manages to keep a lease, regardless of the size of the space.

But… three gigantic propane tanks?  Christmas lights across the roofline?  Are we expecting evening clients?  And how about those display windows?  Despite the variety of folk who visit the Keys, I didn’t see any that were 8’ tall.  But, hey, perhaps high windows are a wise and overlooked means of preventing theft.  And thank you for the potted plant, it’s very inviting.

And here is a Banyan Tree, appropriately located in front of the Banyan Resort. This is one unusual tree, where a type of fig seed is left by a bird on the branches of a host tree.  The seeds drop roots all the way to the ground, eventually enveloping the host tree as well as providing additional trunk US Hwy 1, MM 0 supports for the limbs, such as the one on the right of the picture (a driveway cuts between).  I’m only surprised I didn’t see this first in Avatar.

Wandering around, I only saw two homeless people.  One was distracted, and the other seemed quite content with his companion dog.  Throughout our stay, none begged, stamped a cane, rattled a cup, or anything.  In Atlanta, I would have been asked, followed, and eventually cursed.  But Key  West is, after all, literally the end of the road for some even as it’s a beginning for others.

 

One surprise of our trip was the number of chickens running around.  During my walk, more than a few offered their cockle doodle dos, and while I was, of course, amused, I felt sorry for those in B&B’s who had intended to sleep in.  The one at right had just finished his early morning shopping at a retailer. 

As it happens, I also passed a friendly hostess and a tempting menu.  Shortly, I would return with my wife to Two Friends Patio Restaurant.

Now we’re talking.  Eggs, peppers, onions, potatoes, toast and a Coke on the rocks.  A Scrambled Supreme, the breakfast of champions.

We began full tourist mode afterwards, visiting galleries, buying $5 T-shirts, and generally exploring Duval St., presented below in its morning glory.

Duval St., Key West, FL

A consensus recommendation for us was to visit the Hemingway Home.  As the son of a history professor, I naturally rebel against such, but I was actually interested as Hemingway and Key West are inseparably linked.

It was a very worthwhile tour, and we once again were fortunate to have a great guide (as we heard others with groups afterwards).  I have other Hemingway Home pictures on Flickr, but my favorite is one my wife took as we toured the bedroom.

Hemingway’s 6 toed cats are rather famous, but it was completely unexpected that they had the run of the House in addition to the grounds.  The chain discouraging people from touching the bedspread (or, laying on the bed) is, in context, rather hilarious.  A welcome aspect for a historic site that depends on Hemingway Home Tour Guide admissions fees is that visitors were actually encouraged to take pictures.  It was well worth it.

One aspect of visiting Key West, whether kayaking, dining, ghost touring, historical site touring, or anything else are rather prominent reminders that Key West has a service economy.  Translated:  Tips are pleasantly mentioned, but expected.  Our tour guide at Hemingway Home was definitely worth one.

I’m also a sucker for lighthouses.  Located almost across the street from Hemingway’s is the Key West Lighthouse, built in 1847.  For $10, you get to climb the stairs.  Aside from general interest, it had an interesting marker.  #13 indicates Otto House, the original name of Artist House.  In parenthesis it says “Robert lived here.”  For those that doubt Ghost Tours, don’t mess with Robert.

Any trip to Key West requires a visit to the Southernmost point in the U.S.  Been there; done that.

After passing many other restaurants, we opted for lunch at Tony’s Cuban Cafe.  Once again, the service and food were awesome, and after two particularly minty Mojitos, it was once again… nap time.

We would later struggle to find a restaurant to find a dinner restaurant that could seat us, was not particularly thick with smoke, or overly loud with house bands (Sorry, Sloppy Joe’s).  We ultimately ended up at Guy Harvey’s, which was solid.  Our regret was not dining with another couple who seemed eager for dinner companions.  I think.

We once again walked around town, because, you can.  Duval St. was hopping, but not crazily.  I found Bourbon St. to be fairly disgusting and have to rank Duval St. far ahead of it, regardless of reputations for tawdry behavior.  And here’s two photos to illustrate my point:

Well done, drunkards! Street sweeper

And, finally, after so many meals, we searched for the culinary finish to our trip, the ubiquitous Key Lime Pie.  Several shops dedicate their craft to this dessert, and many restaurants claim to have been voted to have the best Key Lime Pie in Key West.  Of course.

Well, the one person we asked on the street said the Blonde Giraffe made the best, so it was to one of their five island locations that we ventured. 

Blonde Giraffe Key Lime Pie

Sure, ours was a limited statistical sampling, but their pie was the best. 

Yeah…the Keys.  We’ll be back.

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