Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - MOJO

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It’s not that I wrote Tom Petty off.  His first few albums all those years ago had catchy singles, but I just lost interest.  Since then, I’ve enjoyed his songs on the radio, but there’s been nothing to suggest I should revisit his work from the ‘90’s forward.  His Super Bowl halftime gig last year did nothing to convert me... as if a Super Bowl performance could.

One of the great things about Napster (now a unit of Best Buy) is that I can listen to most new releases beyond the 30 second snippets that sites like Amazon provide (for which I pay a subscription).  As a result, I might try artists with funny names, CDs with interesting artwork, or in Tom Petty’s case, artists to whom I once paid attention. Which brought me to Tom Petty - MOJOhis newly released CD, MOJO.  It took only one listen  for me to decide that I needed to invest $9.99 for the real product, mp3 hater that I am.

Petty has reportedly been immersed in the blues over the past decade, and it shows on this release.  Ah, the blues… Will it be the formulaic approach of “woe is me” lyrics over a too familiar chord progression?   That’s not the case here, and, in short, while Petty writes and delivers well enough, it’s The Heartbreakers that make this record worth a listen. 

MOJO is the release of a mature band.  To some, that likely suggests that they lack the exuberance of youth, and it’s true that there is little here that drips testosterone.  The point, rather, is that they’ve grown not just in their mastery of their instruments, but, more importantly, how they should work with each other.   Benmont Tench’s keyboards provide much of the good vibes to be found here, which are further shaped by Mike Campbell’s sterling guitar work.  This isn’t just Tom Petty and a backing band.  Both band members have guest appeared on others’ recordings for many years and are recognized for their talents. 

This is a particularly well crafted album.  Instruments and vocals don’t crowd each other for aural space, and everything comes together to suit the style of each song.  This is notable as the album was reportedly developed without demos and played live by the band when recorded.  That’s not to say that every song is perfect.

The first song, “Jefferson Jericho Blues,” despite an entertaining lyric, is a misfire to my ears, repetitive with a blaring harmonica that annoys.  The only true, mistake, however, is “Don’t Pull Me Over,” a reggae song which, … well, all artists should understand that a reggae song on a non-reggae album is simply a misfit.  It’s inexcusable that someone wasn’t brave enough to stand up and shout “No!” at its inclusion.  And those aren’t my only complaints.  Petty is good at affecting his vocals, but “Candy” is a bit overdone with retro-Southern, and there really is no reason to lean even more towards Dylan’s nasal-ese on “No Reason to Cry.”  But, still, there’s 15 songs here, and the other 11 make for a more than solid purchase.

“First Flash of Freedom” is an extended, trippy, song that eventually recalls the Allman Brothers.  And other artists are echoed at times.  “I Should Have Known It” echoes Led Zep, “Takin’ My Time” recalls the guitar of early Jeff Beck Group, “Running Man’s Bible” mirrors the blues approach adopted by Dylan in his last several releases, and even “Good Enough” sounds a bit like a reworked “She’s So Heavy” by the Beatles.  None of those influences can be faulted, but each song stands fine without those comparisons, as do the others on the CD.

Someone looking for “old Petty” won’t be happy with this CD, but it remains a testament to a band that is comfortable with their ability and seeks to make the best music they can.  

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Recommended Songs: “U.S. 41,” “Lover’s Touch,” “Good Enough”

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The Counter

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The Counter is a chain of hamburger restaurants based in California, and franchise opportunities, of course, are available.  There is exactly one location in Georgia, and that is in Roswell. counter

For me, The Counter has been one of those elusive restaurants common to people who drive a lot.  abacusIf you’re just passing by, you see it, but, if you’re looking for it, you can’t find it.

They advertise 312,120+ possible combinations of hamburgers.  That’s great, because I (years ago) used to really love math.  First grade math with an abacus… loved it.  Going through the grocery store with Clicker Counter my mom’s clicker counter, kind of fun.

It’s not like we’re unaccustomed to burgers and math.  Remember McDonalds when they listed how many millions were served?  So, it’s not completely unique, but not common for math and food to collide.  My daughter, a counter par-excellence nicknamed “T-Rex” at mealtimes, would no doubt enjoy the combinations found at this particular restaurant.  I could put her to the problem at hand:  Are there truly 312,120+ combinations? 

 \binom nk = \frac{n!}{k!(n-k)!},

The idea is that the number of combinations equals… well, n = the number of things to choose from and k = the number of things chosen.  The added difficulty is that this simple combination formula is not up to the task.  The “problem” here is that you’re not necessarily limited to a fixed number of items (k is itself a variable depending on how many items you want on your burger), so the formula would have to be used to calculate each number of ingredients and then added all together.  Not impossible, just… well, beyond my patience to search for it on Google.  And, the point here is certainly not to make your head spin.

Well, let’s see what we have to work with.

Counter Selection

Maybe you can read that; maybe you can’t.  But it’s the “build you own burger” form.   For those that want to go find the more evolved forumlas and do a proof:  Here’s a summary from the order sheet.

  • 5 meats
  • 3 sizes
  • 6 – “substrate” - on a bun (4 types) or in a bowl (2 types of lettuce)
  • 12 types of cheese
  • 21 toppings
  • 9 premium toppings
  • 21 sauces

That equals 77 items in your mathematical set.  Some are exclusive within their category (you would choose only one type of bun) and some are inclusive (as many premium toppings for which you are willing to pay). And putting mathematics aside, it all adds up to a fair number of good reasons to try The Counter.  And, as such, my office group ventured at lunch to that place that was kind over that way, “out of the box” geographically from our self-imposed 5 minute radius.

inside1

We arrived a little late for lunch.  We were all rather intrigued by the possibilities listed on the selection sheet, and, as one might expect and hope, our choices varied.

So, we ordered.  And we waited.  And we waited some more.  But we weren’t complaining.  Not at all.  We saw the unfortunate lady at the next table have a tray of sodas spilled into her lap.  And back.  And everywhere else.  We were nice.  Polite.  And, eventually, the food arrived.

Counter Burger

Looks pretty darn good.  Lettuce, pineapple, roasted red peppers, pickles, Russian dressing, jalapeno jack cheese… oh yeah, and a 1/3 lb. burger on a honey wheat bun.  Hey, you can’t get that everywhere. 

And the review?  Well, can you blame someone for making a burger exactly the way you ordered it?  In this case, no arguments.  It was certainly a different blend of flavors, and a solid choice.  But, there’s also Part B to any hamburger evaluation, one that is usually only mentioned when it excels beyond normal expectations or is otherwise a dud.

The fries.

I’m not a member of any group closely affiliated with “thin fries.”  You want thin fries?  Go to Steak n’ Shake.  Are you supposed to eat them one at a time?  Have you got all day? They’re not even large enough to capture the required ratio of ketchup (10% by weight and 25% by area is my preference).  And what about heat transfer?  The greater the exposed surface area, the faster they lose the heat.  You can’t argue with thermodynamics, and you can’t enjoy a cold French fry, which is what you get if you don’t eat them first.  And why should you be forced to eat your fries first when you came for a great burger?  See?  Thin fries, in keeping with our mathematical theme, don’t add up.

Give me those whoppin’ steak potatoes anytime.  Or the ridged ones at Zaxby’s.  Thin ones? Fail. 

Overall, it was a good experience, but one that didn’t win us over.  The service was slow, the ambience was noisy, the burger was great, the fries were duds, and the price ~ with tags, tax and title, will keep this on the “something different for out of town guests” list.  Count on it.

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Honda U3-X

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A friend passed this clip on to me a couple weeks ago, and it seems that wherever I turn, I come across it again.  Before it fully falls within the realm of yesterday’s news, sure.  I’ll use it for blog filler.  It qualifies in that 1) it’s really cool and 2) I don’t really have to say a lot about it.

But, of course, I do have a few things to say:

1) Really cool stuff of late seems to be victim of a phase of diminishing returns.  Anything that captures our attention seems to be solely within the realm of consumer electronics – not that I’m complaining. Sure, Apple and Google are battling over cell phones, but these are but further generations of Captain Kirk’s communicator.  3D HD?  Yawn.  And so it goes.  Now, if someone is searching for a stunning invention, then a Gulf sized oil accumulator or an otherwise environmentally safe cure for Kudzu are a couple of starter suggestions.  In the meantime, it’s hard to imagine anyone watching the video without a reaction that leans towards “Wow.” U3-X jumpstarts the imagination nicely. 

2)  The implications… It obviously would rely on American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) modifications for ramps or level surfaces in public venues, but it does offer intriguing opportunities for the disabled or elderly, in the home or the workplace.

3) As my friend pointed out, U3-X does seem inspired by Wall-E (it’s a movie; watch it and be entertained).  It’s white smooth surfaces do seem inspired by the simple elegance and simplicity of an iPod or Wall-E’s Eva robot (sans Blaster).

  Apple iPod 5th Generation White (30 GB) MP3 Player Image

 

 

 

 

 

Regrettably, Wall-E’s more advanced depiction would probably not pass muster with worldwide Institutes of Health.  The obvious reactionary response is that there will be consumer markets in the U.S. for recreational or laziness (um, efficiency) purposes. We’re just contrarian that way.  Now, if they can only figure out where to put the cup holder…

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iPhone 4 Presale

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I’ve got to hand it to Apple.  Even if I don’t want something they make, I still find myself giving it full consideration to see if maybe, just maybe, I could justify wanting it for some reason.  Based on my own experience with the iPod and iPhone as well as my coveting of my daughter’s spiffy Macbook Pro, I’m victim to my own inherited goodwill towards whatever they tell me I need.  But a new iPhone?  Please.  I’m not done with my “old” 3G. 

  1. Apple’s big sell: I don’t care about Facetime (video-calling).  I’m content to talk with people; I don’t know that I’m comfortable having to 1) make sure that I’ve brushed my teeth before calling or 2) be politically correct about the image that I’m presenting throughout the conversation.  I’m sure there is appeal for Gen xy&z, who likely threw out Pandora’s box years ago. 
  2. I don’t care about “Retina Display – the highest resolution ever seen on a phone.”  Whatever.  Google will make one better, then Apple will upgrade it, then…  bah humbug. My 3G looks just fine. 
  3. I don’t care about multitasking.  When it comes to using an iPhone, I pretty much have a one task mind.  I’ll either talk, search, read, or play a game.  That’s quite enough.  
  4. HD Video. Really?  Even when I had younger kids, I never found that much that said “I better film this.”
  5. 5 Megapixel photos.  And I thought the pixel wars were over.  I mean, it’s a phone.  Snapshots are fine.
  6. App folders – What? Organizing icons by screen is too confusing for some?  I somehow need all my games in a “Games” folder?  Mr. Jobs… give me some credit.

Get the point?  So why then would I want to upgrade over the internet only to be told that the system is unavailable?  Why would I want to call AT&T only to be told that their customer volume is excessive and that they’re unable to take my call?  And why would I then want to suffer through 2 hours of waiting my turn and through “system issues” at an AT&T store for something I could walk in and purchase next week?

Well, I’ll tell you why.  Picture #1:  Store Manager and key assistant texting (or playing Doodle Jump?) in between their apologies for the delays.

photo

Picture #2: Unmanned “customer service” terminals.

photo1

Yeah.  I ordered an upgrade to stick it to the MAN!!  If they’re gonna get my money, they’re going to pay for it!

errata:

1) Facetime - I’ll give credit to Apple for including the Satchmo “When You’re Smiling” tune with their promotion; it takes the new and wraps it around the sounds of the old and familiar. Dang it.  I can’t be mid-40’s and say “no” to a new way of doing things.

2) Retina display – Who am I kidding?  I can’t stand to watch the non-HD channels on my plasma, never mind watching an old box TV.  Sure, I’m a high def snob.  Bring it on.

3) Well, you know, there are those occasions when multi-tasking might be nice.  I don’t want to hurt my brain, so I’ll at least consider this all the way up to, oh, maybe… double tasking.  Ah, to possess a nimble mind.  I rock.

4) HD Video.  Well, at least it’s there.  Heck, it’s in my Nikon, so why not my phone? 

5) 5 Megapixel photos?  You kidding me?  Anyone (and there’s like, 9 of you) who follows this blog knows that I can’t write a blog without a picture.  And the maxim is true – the best camera is the one that you have with you.  This is a major motivation for the upgrade.  The 3G camera… well, I try to keep this a polite forum.

6) App folders – Yeah, okay.  Directories just might be a better idea than the scattershot icons that I never manage to place exactly where I might look for them.

In Steve Jobs I trust (for consumer electronics, anyway).

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Jeff Beck – Live at Chastain Park

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Well known and beloved to Atlantans, Chastain Park has been a concert venue for decades, but regardless of the music, it remains an event of itself.  Despite growing competition, Chastain continues their summer traditions with a robust schedule of musical acts… granted, ones who made their claim to musical fame long enough ago Beck hipsta that their fans can now afford to see them again in their affluence.

Still, what sets Chastain apart from other outdoor venues is that they usually allow patrons to bring their own food and beverages.  The tiered seating allows for reserved tables or bringing in one’s own smaller tables, and it is common for patrons to bring tablecloths, wine bottles/glasses, and candles for a romantic evening.  We didn’t dress the table, but we provided for ourselves nicely, with Fellini’s Pizza, wine, and several brands of craft beer.  Oh, and water.  Because it was a hot, steamy night.

For this particular outing, there were seven of us, representing a range of familiarity with Jeff Beck.  As mentioned in my previous post, he’s a guitarist.  An excellent one.  One, in fact, that I saw in the 1980’s on a double bill with Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Stevie won the show handily that night, but part of this was due to Beck’s preference for a power trio approach that blasted all subtlety from his playing, as well as the interest of many of those attending (who left early with us).  Skip forward 20+ years to the more mature Jeff Beck, to be 67 years old within the month.

The concert began with a set by Imelda May, who was a guest on Beck’s most recent CD.  Her contribution there was a slow, soulful voice on “Lilac Wine,” so it was quite a surprise to find that she leans towards Rockabilly.

With her band sporting retro looks, May was no stranger to coquettish poses, but what began as a curiosity would quickly win the crowd over.  May has a strong, throaty voice that, coupled with her ample stage presence, took no prisoners.  While many of the songs were unknown, a cover of “Tainted Love” got many of the crowd on its feet, a feat in itself given the crowd’s preoccupation with dining and conversation, not to mention the the stifling heat.  The only thing lacking was a cover of “Stray Cat Strut.”  More than most opening acts, I’m certain this Irish singer gained a number of fans.

Beck took the stage just as the sun was setting and the temperature became less distracting.  One of the first things Jeff Beck that one might notice is that Jeff Beck looks to be in great shape.  But, whether first or second, it’s hard to avoid noticing his apparent preference for a different genre of wardrobe malfunction.  I know many guitar greats want to draw attention to themselves and play the rock star role, but at any age, at least in this era, his “costume” didn’t work. 

Okay, that’s my negative comment about the concert.

The point is that he doesn’t need a costume to draw attention to himself.  The guy can play.  Anything.  And so it went – heavy rock, jazz fusion, blues, popular, classical(ish)… whatever.

Jeff Beck 

The first several songs were well received, but it wasn’t until “People Get Ready” that the crowd starting showing real enthusiasm.  Aside from it being one of Beck’s few (or only) entries to pop FM radio, the familiar tune and the stellar guitar work proved that having Rod Stewart alongside to sing was superfluous even way back when.

Two blues songs, “Rollin and Tumblin” and “Brush With the Blues” were well received, particularly the latter which drew a deserved standing ovation.  The song didn’t belabor the familiar blues progressions, and instead carried a variety of solo styles that didn’t waste a note.

His treatment of two popular songs written by others were also spectacular in Rhonda Smiththeir own right.  “Over the Rainbow” had its expected appeal, helped by the dual video boards  that displayed his careful use of the tremolo arm.  Even better, to my taste, was The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” which closed out the main set.

Bassist Rhonda Smith added some excellent vocals in addition to aggressive and/or nuanced bass lines, and Narada Michael Walden, an almost legendary Narada Michael Waldendrummer, provided the percussion as each song demanded. 

Keyboardist Jason Rebello also contributed some nice solos, as well as filtered vocals through Beck’s guitar (ala Peter Frampton).

But those were the dressing around the main course. Beck primarily played his white Stratocaster, rarely adopting any effects through his pedals.  It was all about bending the strings, vibrations of the notes or the guitar neck, manipulating the volume/tone knobs while playing, or, most typically, using the whammy bar.  I hate to return to the subject of age, but Jeff BeckBeck not only bends guitar strings; he physically bends, flails, or crouches with his music.  Sure, he poses a little, but he hasn’t lost a step, literally or figuratively, with what he brings to a performance.    

We were very fortunate that our seats were on the right of the stage.  Beck played to the left while facing his band mates almost exclusively through the show.  If buying tickets, plan for that, or you’ll have little to see.

The main disadvantage to Chastain is that due to its residential proximity, shows must end at 11:00 p.m.  One wonders if Beck would have been more involved with the crowd had there been more time, or whether Imelda May would have extended her set.  For certain, any nearby residents would have heard his guitar in perfect clarity; the acoustics were amazingly clear.

After a very brief break following the main set, Imelda May returned with the band for two of the three encores, one of which was a repeat of their Grammy pairing of “How High the Moon.” Beck said she stole Jeff Beck and Imelda Maythe show, but… no.  She claimed her space, but it was definitely Beck’s show throughout.

Based on what he’s played elsewhere, the songs below are close to the set-list for Atlanta.  If you have any corrections, please post it and I’ll correct it.

  1. Eternity's Breath
  2. Stratus
  3. Led Boots
  4. Hammerhead
  5. People Get Ready 
  6. Rollin & Tumblin
  7. Never Alone
  8. Big Block
  9. Over the Rainbow
  10. Blast
  11. Angels
  12. Brush With The Blues
  13. Higher
  14. A Day In The Life 

Encore:

  1. Lilac Wine (with Imelda May)
  2. How High the Moon (with Imelda May)
  3. Nessun Dorma

Jeff Beck

These and other photos can be viewed HERE.

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Jeff Beck – Emotion and Commotion

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Following his triumphant 2009 DVD Live at Ronnie Scott's, Jeff Beck released Emotion and Commotion a couple of months ago.  I've listened periodically, even patiently, to absorb what this CD is about.  And "about" is an odd thing to ask from a musical recording, unless it's a concept album of some sort.

Beck is unquestionably a master guitarist.  However, he's not a household name, despite being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, once as a member of The Yardbirds and again as a solo artist. 

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Beck never made mass appeal a specific pursuit.  After his 60’s blues reinventions, the 70's found him focusing mostly on jazz fusion, and later releases focused on harder hitting rock, showcasing his talents as a soloist but largely devoid of memorable riffs or melodies.  Still, after a lengthy career, the “best of” moments tend to accumulate, and these were expertly refashioned Jeff Beck - Emotion & Commotionfrom his typical arena bombast to the more intimate setting of a Ronnie Scott’s jazz club. 

Which brings us to Emotion and Commotion.  Usually, after a few spins, I can recall the more pointed aspects of a CD that I might comment upon.  Not here.  I had to take notes as I listened.

The first track, “Corpus Christi Carol,” is a graceful song set above a rather placid orchestration, and it emphasizes the subtlety of which Beck is capable in managing the guitar’s tone and shaping its notes.  And at the end, I’ve already arrived at my first conflict.  Yes, it’s beautiful for what it is, but does it warrant another listen? 

By sheer track placement, Beck seems to acknowledge the same unease by launching into “Hammerhead,” a scorcher that highlights Beck’s guitar licks.  Sadly, though, it’s built over a pedestrian (unimaginative, not defining the shape of the song, that kind of thing) riff and fails to connect at any level other than an appreciative “wow” for the guitar pyrotechnics.

“Never Alone” leans towards Beck’s jazz fusion days, tempered with sustained notes rather than any sort of improvisational or “in the moment” feel.  It’s a solid song, but not necessarily memorable.

Like his treatment of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” much has been said about Beck’s instrumental version of “Over the Rainbow,” showcased frequently at his live performances the last several years.  It’s an iconic song, and a beautiful one.  And it’s superbly interpreted.  And it’s a great listen.  Once.  Seriously, how many people are going to want to hear this over and over?  The kudos tend to come from people who watched the artist at his work, and the video is not on the CD.

Finally, at track five, we have a keeper.  And it’s not because I’m a puppet of conventional expectations.  Certainly, “I Put a Spell on You” (a song firmly “belonging” to Creedance Clearwater Revival, but actually written by Jay Hawkins) is as catchy as it is familiar, and I’m not giving it excess favor for being the first song on the CD featuring vocals.  That said, both the vocals and music get very soulful treatments from Joss Stone and Beck’s accompanying guitar.  Were this the Jeff Beck from the Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart, there’s no doubt that Beck’s fills would overstep Stone’s vocal space and attempt to outshine her.  If there is anything to be said about a common denominator in the songs included here, it is that Beck has matured and learned to focus his expansive pallet appropriately to the task at hand.

“Serene” begins with an ode to the Allman Brothers or even Derek Trucks, but it inexplicably moves to a funky jazz groove that returns to its Southern Rock refrain.  In that Beck’s closing solo fades out, it seems he didn’t know exactly where to go with it either.

This is followed by “Lilac Wine,” another lazily orchestrated song that is nicely sung by Imelda May.  It’s most memorable in that once again Beck shows some restraint to fit the mood of the piece.  The problem is that the mood is a listless one that would benefit from some sort of emotional pulse.

Instead, we have to wait one more song for that, “Nessun Dorma.”  This classical (and again, orchestrated) song begins rather nebulously and builds to a climatic finish, though possibly an overstated one.  Still, it features some great guitar, and, although not likely to be at home in a generic iPod playlist, it’s the second song clearly worth revisiting.

In another swift change of pace, Joss Stone returns on vocals for a powerful “There’s No Other Me,” a song accented by guttural guitar phrases that finally allow Beck to show some attitude.   And this sets up the penultimate finish for the CD, “Elegy for Dunkirk.”  Well, wait a minute.  It’s actually quite a downer on an album that one might hope would finish on higher ground than a grave.

Okay, I’ve read some other reviews.  I rarely do this unless I’m seriously debating a purchase, but I spent way too much time coming to terms with this CD.  In general, the reviews tend towards “Jeff Beck’s most accessible work in years…”  This may be true, but it’s been 7 years since his last studio CD. 

In many ways, it is a natural follow-up to the “Ronnie Scott” release, which may have even helped Beck understand the manner in which his talents are best appreciated.  As a result, the change of pace found in Emotion and Commotion clearly shows that Beck’s mastery of guitar extends to multiple genres, and the songs give ample space for the nuances of his work to be heard.  Well and good.  For the listener, it’s a technical showcase that all the commotion is about, but it’s a surprisingly sterile experience when it comes to emotion.  If anything, the CD emphasizes that the quickness, control and dexterity of his finger work are better experienced when he can be watched as he is heard.

Which, as it happens, I will do tomorrow as he visits Atlanta.

Recommended Songs: “I Put A Spell on You,” “There’s No Other Me,” “Nessun Dorma.”

Rating: 2 Stars out of 5

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There’s No Such Thing…

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… as an easy job.

No, I’m not talking about professional employment.  I’m talking about home repairs.  The “cup is half full” approach would be expressed as “the greater the challenge, the greater the reward.”  I would rather avoid the cup altogether, but… God so ordains.  Entropy happens.  Stuff breaks.  And while the option is always there to pay a more qualified person to do the work, sometimes I just want to conquer those smaller challenges that seem within reach.  Hardware stores count on it.

I’m generally not a “fix-it” type person.  Still, necessity grows a boy to a man when it comes to home repair/improvement.  The evolution might be as follows:

  • Changing light bulbs. (you have to start somewhere)
  • Hanging pictures (level, but of course with mandatory supervision)
  • Assembling “furniture in a box”
  • Painting a room
  • Building a 6’ privacy fence
  • Assembling kids toys
  • Installing a ceiling fan
  • Replacing a spool of plastic twine in a weed-eater
  • Replacing leaky valves in toilets
  • Router/WiFi/Network setup
  • Installing a dishwasher

And so on.  Each sounds easy, but there’s always the one tool needed that has not yet come to rest in the tool box, the one screw that wasn’t turned quite far enough, the cut finger on something marginally related to the task at hand (packaging), the “understanding” that comes from reading the instructions the 4th or 5th time after repeated failures, the preparation, the clean up…  Whatever “it” is to be done, it takes much longer than expected, and it is rarely as easy as 1-2-3.  Yes, even changing a light bulb can be a problem when the existing bulb gets stuck in the socket.  Why? Because there’s no such thing as an easy job.

And, so it was on that fateful day that I went back to revisit an earlier chapter in my instruction: Ceiling Fan Installation.  The ceiling fan in my master bedroom stopped working before last summer, so while some may think that a year later is terribly overdue, I would add that the mounted lighting unit worked just fine, and there is always A/C.   Also, considering there was no spousal pressure, the actual due date remains by default to “first complaint + 6 months.”   

Well, she left for a few days, and I thought to myself, “Self, why don’t you tackle that that there project and surprise her when she returns by completing that job wayyyyyyyyyy early?”  Good idea.  I mean, it’s back there in Chapter 7, right?

I’ve installed or replaced several ceiling fans.  No big deal.  The only glitch in my skill set is that the particular fan in question is mounted on an extension rod that descends from a peaked ceiling about 16’ high to approximately 10’.  That’s way up there.  And I don’t have a ladder for that.  Upon further consideration, first complaint + 6 months remains a valid option.   

But, I press on.  I borrow a friends 7’ ladder.  Not surprisingly, it lets me access the lighting fixture just fine, but it isn’t suitable for the fan motor housing.    Fine.  Upon the initiation of any project, it’s a known factor that completion will require x many trips to the hardware store or other places.  x is a variable, and it’s already varying, because that’s what it does.  I can’t yell at it or take out a seething, frustrated loathing upon it.  After all, is not the cause of my problem but rather a result of the Handyman’s Law:  “There’s no such thing as an easy job.”   I drive back to his house, stuff his 10’ ladder into the SUV (Bungees… a handyman’s best friend) and try again.  This time, I’m eyeball to eyeball with my “work surface.”  Go me.

  • Remove light bulbs.  Check.
  • Remove light globes. Check.
  • Remove light unit?  Dunno, but check anyway.
  • Remove fan blades.  Check.
  • Study the situation.

The fan has wires.  Where do the wires connect?  Is it in the pole?  Where and how do I disconnect the fan from the pole?  Hmm.  I read through the manual of my spiffy new ceiling fan, but, alas, there are no tips on how it would be installed on an extension rod.  Reverse engineering is thus thwarted.

  • Consult internet.  Many sites; no dice.
  • Consult Mr. Fix It.

Mr. Fix It is my father-in-law, who has every tool known to man and seems happiest when one is in his hand, whether it is mechanical, plugs into an outlet, or drives a white ball 270 yards.  Luckily, Mr. Fix It hasn’t  had enough things to fix lately and arrives twenty minutes later.  

Upon his inspection, it appears that I disassembled more of the fan unit than was required, but, hey, I was looking for the spot where this one comes off and that one goes on and the wires are connected and life is good. That’s the fantasyland of those laboring within “there’s no such thing as an easy job.”

As robust as the 10’ ladder is, it, falls perilously short of safely reaching the 15’ peak of the ceiling, from whence the whole contraption hangs and wherein the wires are happily mated.  But of course.  Why?  (Say it with me now…) Because there’s no such thing as an easy job!

Mr. Fix It returns the following day with a double sided, 14’ Behemoth Ladder, strapped to the Mr. Fix It trailer that makes its appearances for just such occasions as this.  Aside from the usual contortions of bringing a Behemoth through doors at the proper angles without removing paint or punching holes through sheetrock, this rascal also presented a challenge vertically.  Sure, 15’ is the peak of the ceiling, but the sloped ceiling on either side just begs for Behemoth abuse.  Thus, the act of erecting a ladder also falls victim to our phrase of the day.  We had to stand the ladder in the middle of the room, then spread its legs at the same time to avoid damage to the ceiling.  Lovely.  

By the way, there’s quite a view from atop the Behemoth.  Sure, you can see the mounting plate.  You can also see the floor way down below, but you forget about the ceiling behind your head, which, by the way, hurts. 

So, the old fan comes down, the wires attached to the new ceiling fan are forced through the extension rod with the tried and true but as yet unpatented CHT (coat hangar tool), and up we go our respective flanks of the Behemoth, me carrying the dead weight, and Mr. Fix It ready to do the dirty work at the top.  Which he does, admirably.

Hey, here’s an idea!  Let’s test it before we go further.  Flip the fan switch on the wall… nothing.   This is expected, of course.  It’s nothing but a minor setback.  Of course there’s a reason for it.  Let’s think about this.  Electricity flows to the wiring connection, and then to the fan.  What is missing?  Mr. Fix It suggests attaching the lighting section, because the fan’s pull cord is actually mounted to that.  And ifMr. Fix It atop the Behemoth it’s mounted to the lighting unit, then there’s obviously an electrical control there.  Mr. Fix It is just plain brilliant.

 

Thus accomplished, flip the switch, and?  This isn’t really surprising, is it?  Because (and you’re not more tired of this than me) there’s no such thing as an easy job

Thereupon, I surprise Mr. Fix It by being in the possession of a multimeter, a gizmo used to test voltage, current, resistance, etc.  Just because Mr. Fix It has the complete Sears tool collection, it doesn’t mean he brings them all with him.  Score one for the home team.

Apply leads to the connection at the ceiling and…?   No surprise.  Zero current on the fan wire.  Let’s apply logic.  How about the light wires?  Houston, we have liftoff. 

Hmm. If there’s current on one, and not the other… Did we make a faulty assumption that the hip bone was connected to the leg bone?   Yes, let’s try the wall switch itself.  Remove the cover, insert probes and…?  Nada.  Nothing.  Which means what?  Some squirrely rodent chewed through a wire in the attic?  Before I can petition a theoretical Patron Saint of Home Repair, Mr. Fix It is off with his Mr. Fix It trailer to the hardware store, to buy a $4 light switch. 

What does this amount to? 

1)  Money.  $90 for a ceiling fan, $22 for a half day Behemoth rental, $4 for a replacement light switch, and further indentured servitude to Mr. Fix It should he ever call.  That’s $116 for a $4 fix.  I mean, that’s a governmental formula.

2) Appreciation.  Everyone should have a Mr. Fix It.  Long may they run.

3) Satisfaction. Sure, there’s no such thing as an easy job, but a completed job is its own reward.  Even when your spouse doesn’t notice. 

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