Athens in the 1980s

By | March 10, 2019

Athens, Georgia in the 1980s was known for being a hotbed of alternative music. The B-52s hailed from Athens. REM was from Athens. A host of other, lesser-known but well respected bands came from Athens. You could go to your choice of clubs around town, the best-known being the 40 Watt, and hear up and coming bands (and some not so up and coming — those were the ones who got to perform on Monday nights) any time you wanted. Someone eventually made a movie about the incredible Athens music scene, “Athens, GA, Inside/Out” which, unfortunately, doesn’t appear to be available for streaming anywhere, or I’d tell you to go watch it.

And there was, a student at the University of Georgia, having arrived in town just when the big push came to up the drinking age to 21. The US government mandated that states raise the drinking age; if they didn’t, the Feds would withhold federal highway funding. Grumbling, states complied. In Georgia, they raised the drinking age from 18 to 19 in 1984, then from 19 to 20 in 1985, then from 20 to 21 in 1986, one increment each year for three years, so those people who could already drink could keep on doing so but those who were just shy of being old enough … well, we got the shaft.

I know, I know, it was for our own good, but it really sucked as far as my social life was concerned. Most of my acquaintances at that time were a year or two older and could go to clubs where alcohol was served, or to the Georgia Theater (the “Carafe and Draft” at that time), but I couldn’t — even though two years earlier (were I the same age then) I’d have been able to. Some clubs let under-aged students in with a wristband or stamp on their hand, but others didn’t let you in at all. And in any event, being the kid drinking Coke when everyone you were with was pounding down one beer after another was really, really lame.

(But on the other hand, I was a whiny little loser that I doubt anyone much enjoyed being with, so if the “sorry, you’re underage, you can’t come in” thing hadn’t been a valid excuse, people would just have come up with another. Can’t blame ’em, really.)

But the long and the short of it was that there I was, in the absolute goddamn epicenter of college rock in the 1980s, and for the most part, I experienced it the same way anyone in any college town would’ve, via the radio.

UGA had a great campus radio station, WUOG (“The Last One Left”, due to its position on the FM dial) and if you kept your radio tuned there, you’d eventually hear everyone who was anyone in the alternative rock scene: REM, Pylon, Love Tractor, Berlin, the Smiths, Bauhaus, XTC, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, the Beat Farmers, the Dead Kennedys, the Butthole Surfers, the Circle Jerks, the Violent Femmes, the Cure, Depeche Mode, Shriekback, and countless others. WUOG is where I first heard “People Who Died” by the Jim Carroll Band. It’s where I first heard “Elvis is Everywhere” by Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper.

Carole, for her part, missed out on all this musical wonderment by virtue of a) being three years younger than me, and b) going to college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at Harvard. I assume there were alt rock stations in that part of the world, but evidently she didn’t listen to ’em. (She says “I was busy majoring in boys”.)

I put an “80s Alternative Rock” playlist on today during lunch and all these memories came spilling back. Each song that came on was an old friend to me but completely new to Carole. As we sat there eating, I wound up having to look up the lyrics to Berlin songs (“The Metro”, “Sex (I’m A)”, etcetera) for her, so she could follow along… and a bit later found myself explaining that saying “‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ (by Joy Division) is one of the best known alternative rock songs ever” isn’t oxymoron. As is my wont, I wound up going into much more detail than she really wanted or needed. So, finally, rather than attempt the impossible — catching my wife up on years of alternative rock history in the space of a meal — I simply had done with it and played her “Take The Skinheads Bowling” by Camper van Beethoven. (She loved it.)

That’ll have to do for now. 🙂

Hamburguesas con mantequilla de cacahuete

By | February 21, 2019

So I saw an article on Atlas Obscura about a legendary Missouri restaurant and its “guberburgers” — hamburgers topped with peanut butter.

Talk about “bringing back old memories”…

I spent eight months in a s___hole El Salvadoran jail between March and November of 2005. They fed us nothing but peanut butter slathered burgers, grilled medium well, on brioche buns. It sounds appealing at first, but after the second week we’d have cheerfully done anything — anything — for a salad, or fresh fruit, or some Big K grape soda.

The last two months were the worst. I spent those hallucinating conversations with a large, hairy tapir of some kind who kept promising me valuable investment tips but kept on raising the price I’d have to pay to get “the really good stuff”.

Finally they let me go when the local mayor (this was in Las Vueltas) needed the space to imprison his in-laws after a particularly ugly Carnaval de San Miguel party spun totally out of control. I was sent stumbling out into the alleys outside the prison with only a stick and a used VHS tape of “Air Bud 2: Golden Receiver” and left to fend for myself. When I finally made my way to the American embassy sixty miles away, on foot, I had lost most of my language skills and was only able to say “I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was.”

TL;dr — peanut butter on hamburgers sounds appealing at first but can get old really quickly

WE JUST LIKE SIGNS

By | February 20, 2019

Vermont’s not doing much, election-wise, in 2019. We’ve got select board and school board voting and we’ve got to vote on town and school budgets, but this isn’t really a “wallpaper the area with campaign signs” year.

That said, there’re a few signs still up from last fall’s election cycle here and there around town, and Carole and I periodically comment to one another, speculating on how long it’ll be before the last one finally disappears. (Probably not until the new crop go up in late 2019 and early 2020 for the 2020 fall elections.)

I keep wanting to order up some signs of my own to put around town one of these years… just to mess with people’s heads. Something like this:

Double-sided yard signs with the wire frames for mounting on lawns and curbs and things are fairly expensive in small numbers. If you order more than 50 the price starts to really drop — $4.55 each for 50, $3.29 each for 200 or more, etcetera. That said, $250 for a random experiment in surrealism is kinda outside our budget, but I can still dream.

Jury Duty

By | February 15, 2019

Our local independent weekly newspaper has a column called “WTF” that attempts to answer questions about local weirdness (e.g. “what the heck is that weird building down on the southern end of Dorset Street?”). This week’s WTF question was “WTF: Why Are Some People Called for Jury Duty While Others Never Are?

I’m 51 and have never served as a juror.

I registered to vote when I turned 18. I was a freshman in college down in Georgia when I received a jury summons for service back in my home county in Virginia. I filled out the response form with “off at college, kthxbye” and that was that. Never received a peep since.

Carole’s never been called at all, in any way, shape, or form.

I’m 51, and she’s 48. Between the two of us, zip, zilch, nada in terms of juror service. Neither of us has ever not been registered to vote, so you’d think our number would come up now and then, right?

But hey, probability says situations like ours must exist (as the WTF article linked above explains). Knowing that doesn’t stop me from feeling kind of … I dunno, left out.

Admittedly, it would be kind of a headache if I did get called because my work involves very frequent travel scheduled far in advance, but at the same time, it’d be an interesting experience… for some definition of “interesting”. It’d be nice just to see what goes on.

On the other hand, I understand that it’s not uncommon to get empaneled, make arrangements to have time off and get day care and stuff, only to have the case in question get plea bargained. Everything gets plea bargained these days, or so I understand.

Still. Even if I got called to be a juror for a case involving jaywalking in a blizzard at 2 am on a Sunday and it got pled down to fourth degree mopery and dopery, at least then I could puff out my chest and say “I’ve done my civic duty.”

Another Year, Another Marauding Antediluvian Saurian Bearing Angiosperms

By | February 14, 2019

I think Champ is really obsessed with me. He came by my office for the second year in a row to wish me Happy Valentine’s Day!

Doesn’t he look bigger than last year? The handler who brought him in, said he’d been eating a lot of hot dogs. I dunno, I heard he’s been eating a lot of kids. 😉

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Wide Net

By | February 13, 2019

I’m like many of my peers in having a “wide net” that sweeps in all manner of trivia, facts, obscure details, and what-have-you and stores it away against a time when said knowledge will randomly come in handy. If you’re reading this and you know me, you probably have a pretty wide net as well. The people I know well all tend to have this in common.

I sometimes wonder, however, if mine is atypically wide — I have a bizarre set of interests that you don’t always find in the same brain. In the last 24 hours, I’ve been able to supply the names of two of the major players in the unification of Italy in the 1800s (Garibaldi and Cavour) and I’ve found myself using “DUUUVAL” as the meeting password to an online meeting with a customer located in Jacksonville, Florida. Sports geekihood and regular geekihood don’t always coincide.

Having such a wide net can be kind of a curse. Carole, who graduated from Harvard and who competed on Jeopardy nonetheless assumes that she can ask me virtually anything and I’ll know the answer. I’m her human Wikipedia. On those (admittedly rare) occasions when I don’t know the answer, she’s dumbfounded… and just asks again, much as one would rephrase a Google search that failed to find what you were looking for the first time. It couldn’t be that I actually don’t know … it’s just a matter of rephrasing the question so my brain will cough up what she’s looking for. When I tell her that I actually don’t know the answer, she gets vexed with me. “I don’t always know the answer, Carole” I say, and she says “Once in a blue moon, sure. But you usually DO.”

No, this isn’t a humblebrag. As I said, I know a lot of people with the same blessing/curse, the curse of knowing everything. It’s just kind of weird, is all. A lot of times I have literally no idea why I know something. Just that I do.

Update From The Front Lines

By | February 11, 2019

I spend almost all my time traveling for work — until this week I’ve been on the road every week so far this year: Texas, Texas, Texas, Arkansas, Texas. It gets lonely on the road sometimes, especially when I’m one or more time zones away from home and when Carole doesn’t get home until late due to rehearsals (choir and orchestra on consecutive weeknights).

So I get a little attention-starved now and then. And so once in a while I try to do or say something via email that will get Carole’s attention. (It’s awkward to send a telegram-like email that says “I AM LONELY AND ATTENTION-STARVED STOP PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO ME STOP”, so I have to use subtler methods.)

Last week I did this:

Carole wrote me this morning and told me that I should do a screen-shot and post it here. Apparently she found it amusing enough that she looked back at it days later. So, hey, I guess I can call that “success”.

Walking Sixty Miles To Fight Breast Cancer (Again, Naturally)

By | February 9, 2019

Hi, all.

I am signed up to walk in the 2019 Susan G. Komen Twin Cities 3-Day walk, a sixty-mile, three-day walk to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer.

In order to take part, I have to raise a minimum of $2,300. The money raised will go to pay for research, clinical trials, education, and treatment. I wouldn’t undertake an effort like this if I didn’t think that the fight against cancer was one worth fighting for.

This will be my 11th time taking part in a 3-Day walk. I walk and crew these events not because it’s an easy way to feel like I’ve made a little bit of a difference. Walking sixty miles is no weekend-in-the-park fun run. I walk because it’s important and because it’s hard. Finding a cure for cancer is hard. Changing a diagnosis of breast cancer from a death sentence to a manageable, treatable condition … that’s hard. And we have made strides — the odds are getting better. But there’s still many a tough mile left to walk.

Will you help by sponsoring me? You can donate here:

http://www.the3day.org/goto/carole

Thank you so much!

Te Deum

By | February 7, 2019

Hey, all. I’m going to be singing in concert with the Green Mountain Mahler Festival this Saturday at St Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont. The Green Mountain Mahler Festival doesn’t just do Mahler works — they do various readings of orchestral and choral works by all manner of composers. Sometimes we just come together and go through a work from beginning to end, but other times we rehearse all day and then do a concert for friends and family in the evening. That’s the case here. We’re going to do two Te Deums (orchestra and chorus), one by Bruckner and one by Dvorak ; the orchestra will also do the Adagio religioso from Lobgesang by Felix Mendelssohn.

It should be fun. I’ve performed with the Mahler Festival pick-up orchestra several times, sometimes playing French horn and other times as a vocalist. I’m singing alto this time around.

The concert is at Saturday, February 9, 2019 at 8:00 PM at the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel at Saint Michael’s College, in Colchester, Vermont. Admission is by free will donation; the donations will go to AgeWell. For more information visit vtmahler.org.

Green Mountain Horn Club concert

By | February 7, 2019

The Green Mountain Horn Club — an all French horn ensemble founded in 1984 by Alan Parshley — holds concerts now and then when we can get people together. Recently we played in Lincoln, Vermont as part of their “Hill Country Holiday” celebration. The concert was held at the United Church of Lincoln and we had a pretty decent turnout.

The video, above, was shot by my husband Jay from the church balcony. The sound isn’t professional quality, obviously, but it’s not awful. There are a couple of breaks in the action when the camera chose of its own accord to just stop filming, but we only lost a couple of the spoken-word transitions between pieces that our conductor used to give our lips time to recover. All the music was recorded.