Monday, December 28, 2009

2010: A Year of Returning to Reading?

For much of the noughties, I found myself reading a lot of books. TV has bored me for years. And I find myself falling asleep during movies or dissing most of them because of lame humor and/or improbabilities built into most scripts. So reading has been a great way to fill the gap.

But I've slipped the last couple of years - probably as a result of idle time spent blogging, tweeting, and scrounging around looking for enjoyable new music.

Its not as if I haven't had plenty of reading material to choose from. The staple gift for birthday and Christmas from my mothers (birth and in-law) often include books. I also signed up in 2008 for Paperback Swap resulting in a pretty hefty number of inbound books in 2009 - most of which continue to sit on the shelf until I get back in the saddle.

Current books in the queue include:
  • The Age of Speed: Learning to Thrive in a More-Faster-Now World - Vince Poscente
  • The Burden of Proof - Scott Turow
  • Daughters Gone Wild - Dads Gone Crazy - Charles and Heather Stone
  • Fierce Conversations - Susan Scott
  • The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression - Amity Schlaes
  • A Man's Guide to the Spiritual Disciplines - Patrick Morley
  • Rapid Response: My Inside Story as a Motor Racing Life-Saver - Dr. Stephen Olvey
  • Raising Resilient Children - Brooks and Goldstein
  • Ray Fox: Sly in the Stock Car Forest - Godwin Kelly
  • Reading the Bible Again for the First Time - Marcus J. Borg
  • The Search for Significance - Robert S. McGee
  • 3 Secular Reasons Why American Should Be Under God - William Federer
  • Silent Speedways of the Carolinas - Perry Wood
  • Why Men Hate Going to Church - David Murrow
  • The World Is Flat - Thomas Friedman
While I highly doubt I'll get to all of these in 2010, I do plan to get back in the habit of reading regularly. Too many hours are spent in a typical year of mine hanging out in airports, hotels, and the living room couch to waste them by not reading.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Book Recommendation: True To The Roots

Did you get an Amazon gift card for Christmas that's already burning a hole in the pocket of your worn out Levi's? If you are a fan of Americana music, I recommend you consider using the gift card to buy Monte Dutton's True To The Roots: Americana Music Revealed.

By day, Dutton's beat is the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. In his spare time, he is a big fan of old school country music artists such as Charlie Pride, Roger Miller, Buck Owens and Faron Young and new school Americana.

The book was published in 2006; however, its still very much relevant as we head into 2010. Dutton spent many nights traveling the honky-tonks of America, watching performances, and interviewing many artists for the book. Included in its chapters are stories about and interviews with such artists as Stoney LaRue, Reckless Kelly, Jack Ingram, Slaid Cleaves (man, I love his song Horseshoe Lounge), Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green, Tom Russell, James McMurtry, Buddy Miller, and guitar-maker Vince Pawless.

Preview the book if you'd like at Google Books.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Todd Snider in Nashville - February 20

A rare Nashville performance by Todd. Jennifer Knapp will be the lagniappe of this show.

I got mine. Did you get yours?


Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas from TMC

Christmas wouldn't be complete without a reprise of Robert Earl Keen's classic. To be honest, this song more closely resembles Thanksgiving gathering with my side of the family than it does Christmas with my wife's kin. But who am I to split hairs?

Merry Christmas y'all.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hey bro, are you listening?

About a month ago, I blogged a mini-series of things I'm thankful for. In entry no. 2, I mentioned friends and family. Perhaps a bit too candidly, I noted my relationship with my brother is for the most part non-existent. Well, now I've moving from candid to transparent to perhaps TMI.

He moved to Atlanta about a decade ago and was pretty good about staying in touch with our folks, my sister, and me for the first year or two. Since then, however, contact has been less and less with all of us.

We all would send him birthday and Christmas greetings but received nothing in return. A few years ago, I bought him a DVD player from his Amazon wish list as his Christmas gift and had it direct shipped to his address - but got no acknowledgment from him he received it. The next year, I simply sent him an Amazon gift certificate link - again nothing. The next year I dropped back to just a Christmas photo card of my kids - again nothing. So I dropped him altogether about 3 years ago.

What I'm really pissed about is how he's dropped all contact with our parents. He was the baby of the three of us and lived with them until he was Costanza-age. My mother has bent over backwards trying to reach out to him and also gets nothing in return. No gift, card, e-mail, call, text, smoke-signal, hand gestures, NOTHING - for her birthday, anniversary, Christmas or just to say hello.

He's also demolished his relationship with three kids - my two and our sister's daughter. My daughter is young enough her memories of him are too fuzzy to miss him that much. Its more like she doesn't have him as an uncle vs. having lost him. My son has a few more memories - all positive - but if he's missed having his uncle around he certainly doesn't show it.

My niece on the other hand is deeply hurt. She was about 6 or so when he left, and the two of them were inseparable when he still lived nearby. She idolized him. I've known its bothered her that he's fallen away, but I didn't realize the intensity of it until tonight.

Now as a 16 year old, she wrote an original song about her memories of their good times and the hurt she feels for him having dropped out of her life. She first read the lyrics to us tonight, and none of us knew quite what to say when she was done except "well done". She wanted to figure out a way to record it and get it to him for Christmas. I agreed to video and share it via YouTube for her. She plans to e-mail the link as her Christmas present to him.

I'll tell ya one thing. This song sho' ain't no Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer so be prepared.

I couldn't be prouder of her for writing this. And props to my boy for jumping in on guitar. She told him the basic chords to strum and what she wanted on the chorus and bridge. He took it from there.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

2009 Nashville Unlimited

My view of homeless folks was permanently altered for the better about 12 years ago. I always had a sympathetic view of the homeless. But conflicting feelings would collide if I saw someone in need of help - give 'em some cash? offer them suggestions for where to go? avoid them and head to the other side of the street? label them as bums? pause a moment for a conversation? Other than giving a dollar or two here and there and wondering what I should do, "inaction" was probably the best word to describe my view.

Upon being introduced to Nashville's Room in the Inn program, however, my level of involvement changed from inaction to participation. Each night from November 1 through March 31, approximately 200 folks (primarily men) are sent to local churches for a warm, safe place to sleep, a couple of meals, some basic amenities, and genuine hospitality. About 160 churches participate on varying nights during this time.

During the day, Room in the Inn's campus is bustling with activity - an art room, GED and job training, a place to make a phone call, a post office, showers, etc. The ministry truly is a blessing to the homeless of the Nashville and all of those who participate in its programs. I've spent the night with these guys, driven vans, cooked meals, run mail call, distributed clothing, played checkers (got my arrrse whipped most of the time!), shared dinner and a cup of coffee, and laughed with folks I otherwise would never have met.

For the last 10 years, one of Nashville's most prominent musicians, bassist Dave Pomeroy, has organized and emceed Nashville Unlimited. The show's duality of simplicity and diversity represent its charm. The simplicity is this: recruit from a seemingly unlimited pool of singers/bands to perform, play at a church, sell no tickets, use word of mouth promotion, ask for donations to listen, and building gets full = doors close. That's it (at least outwardly - there is far more controlled chaos behind the scenes than I likely care to know).

The diversity is in the music. Dave books three solid hours of music with the only breaks being minor stage changes from band to band, microphone adjustments, and an update or witness about Room in the Inn itself. Some performers are book-its - they've been there every year. Some are announced in advance. And many are "surprise guests". This year's surprises included Emmylou Harris and John Prine.

This year's show was this past Wednesday, and the performances may be as varied as I've seen before. Here ya go with the set list and of course some commentary along the way.
  1. Dave Pomeroy - Stargazing - He said the writing of this song was influenced by the three wise men - bass solo with bass #1
  2. Dave again - Not Forgotten - Dave said it was written years ago, but it finally became relevant to him in 2009 because of a year of personal losses - bass #2 used
  3. Don Henry - My Favorite Things
  4. Lori Ann Patera with Henry and Pomeroy (on bass #3) - Pretty Ribbons
  5. Will Smith - medley of Christmas songs on an autoharp
  6. Joey & Rory - apparently they were on CMT's Can You Duet show and have been featured on commercials - can't say for sure because I haven't seen either - but their Christmas song got a lot of applause so Dave asked them to play a 2nd one
  7. So they did...a song about the hardships of the long-gone folks who built their 1870s-era house where they currently
  8. Coral Bay Steel Drum Trio - Frosty the Snowman on steel drums... I can honestly say I've never heard Frosty quite that way.
  9. They continued with a reggae version of Go Tell It on the Mountain
  10. They capped off their three-song list with Silent Night
  11. 18 South - Santa Claus is Back in Town - a bluesy number
  12. 18 South again with a gospel number - it jammed but I have no clue about the title
  13. Emmylou Harris - Beautiful Star of Bethlehem - holy cow, is it even possible Emmylou is 60?
  14. Emmylou - Home Sweet Home
  15. Riders in the Sky - Christmas Time Is Coming
  16. RITS - Let It Snow
  17. RITS - Give Thanks
  18. RITS - I'll Be Home for Christmas
  19. Music City Baroque - a Handel composition - We got our culture on!
  20. MCBE - More Handel - Rejoice
  21. Steve Wariner - Christmas in Your Arms
  22. SW - Let It Snow
Steve then told a great story about the photo shoot for a Christmas album he released in the early 1990s. He had the grand idea to involve his young kids, a sleigh, a horse, some fake snow, and a dog. However, during the shoot his kids wouldn't cooperate much, and the dog hated the horse. As the shutter snapped, the dalmatian constantly growled grrrrr as he kept his eyes trained on the horse.
  1. SW - Christmas Morning
  2. SW - Our Savior Is Born

As Wariner finished and Pomeroy walked him off the stage, Dave returned chuckling, shaking his head, and said something to the effect of "Well, you never know about these surprise guests. This next singer-songwriter has just surprised me by being here. Here he is - perhaps the best singer-songwriter around." With that, he introduced John Prine.
  1. John Prine - Crazy As A Loon. After he finished, Prine quipped "well, the only thing Christmasy about that song was I didn't even say Christmas in it."
  2. JP - Hello In There (vid link for those who've never heard this haunting classic)
  3. Nashville Mandolin Ensemble - Carol of the Bells (MP3) from their out-of-print Gifts CD. Get it used if you can!
  4. NME - Christmas in County Kerry (vid link)
  5. NME - Dance of the Mirlitons from the Nutcracker Suite
  6. NME with John Cowan singing - Ava Maria
  7. Sweethearts of the Rodeo - Get Together (yes, that Get Together)
Two additional humorous moments:

Before the show: Because seating is based on first-come-first-served, a line started forming on the sidewalk out side the church several minutes before the doors opened. As I stood their...outside a church...waiting to hear a multi-hour music support the cause of the homeless. Yet a handful of folks near me wearing nice fur-lined coats started bitching about having to stand on the sidewalk in the cold. Oh the irony...

After the show: I heard one guy explain to another: "No, it was Henry, Don Henry - not Don Henley. (Speaking to others) He thought he was going to hear and see Don Henley from The Eagles."


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009: The Bird List

The label "Americana" has emerged over the last decade or so as the industry standard to apply to my favorite types of music. Yet, the label itself is pretty inadequate to describe what I like for a number of reasons.
  • Other things besides music are considered Americana - kitschy art, covered bridges in Vermont, turkey on Thanksgiving, Tennessee v. Alabama on third Saturday of October, Jimmy Stewart, etc.
  • Most other music labels are confining. Jazz, pop, hip-hop, country, metal, classical. Mention any of those genres, and one can just about conjure up a "name that tune" of some song within it. Americana doesn't work like that. The tent is huge and can accommodate a wide swath of artists and bands, acoustic and electric, megastar and unsigned, young and old, etc.
  • Singer-songwriters often fit within the genre. Some new country acts such as Miranda Lambert are welcome. Some quirky country artists such as Lyle Lovett have a seat at the table. Lots of old country artists kicked to the curb by Nashville are now senior friends in Americana such as Charlie Louvin. Artists on the lower end of the age spectrum (e.g. Avett Brothers) and on the upper end (e.g. Guy Clark) are equally at home.
  • Even the musical chops of the performers vary widely - yet places many competing styles within Americana. Lots of acoustic Martins - but a healthy dose of electric Strats. Electric bass is welcome right alongside the upright bass (exhibit 1: Kurt Ciesla from Corb Lund and The Hurtin' Albertans)...

  • It comes from all over - Texas and Tennessee are logical places to start. But try North Carolina, Oklahoma, California, Florida, New York, and the remaining states I didn't mention. Oh while you are at it, throw Canada into the mix. In this case, you've got a completely separate nation from which "Americana" originates. Even an iconic, British rock star who didn't start out as Americana ended up there by pairing himself with Allison Krauss (e.g. Zep's Robert Plant).
So while I'm not sure Americana, alt-country, or any label appropriate fits, I do pretty much know it when I hear it ... as do many others.

Fellow blogger A Truer Sound invited about 30 bloggers to throw our 2 cents in about our top 20 Americana releases of 2009. I was humbled about being asked to participate because I'm a blogging lightweight compared to these champs of music coverage.

We settled on The Bird List as the name of the poll results for a couple of reasons.
  • One, because Americana is so hard to define, the singers, bands, artists, and fans generally give the finger to the recording, retail, radio, and marketing establishments. Its not Music Row, formulaic country. Its not LA rock or pop. Its not all Texas honky tonks or the Grand Ol' Opry. Its big arenas and smoky bars. Much of it can and should be stocked in multiple sections in a music store. Most of those involved with performing or listening refuse to be pigeon-holed.
  • Two, a charter member of what is now known as Americana is The Man in Black - Johnny Cash. While most often considered as a country singer, his embrace of so many other types of music and people was a finger in the face of the establishment. His iconic in-your-face bird shot has adorned many a t-shirt.
My contributions to the top 20 list follow below. Seven of my choices made the overall top 20 - not bad I suppose considering the abundance and diversity of 2009's offerings and the ears of the listeners.

My selections were cobbled together with the other contibutors. A super-secret, fancy-schmancy scoring algorithm was applied, and bada-bing, bada-boom the sho-nuff, consensus, inaugural 2009 The Bird List is available for your viewing and commenting. Please chime in here or at the official home of the list.

TMC's Top 20:
  1. Guy Clark - Sometimes The Songs Write You (link is to show review)
  2. Corb Lund - Losin' Lately Gambler (link is to show review)
  3. Tom Russell - Blood And Candle Smoke
  4. Scott Miller - For Crying Out Loud
  5. Lyle Lovett - Natural Forces
  6. (Bob) Walkenhorst & (Jeff) Porter - No Abandon (link to blog entries re: both)
  7. Eric Brace & Peter Cooper - You Don't Have To Like Them Both (Peter: Tennessean writer by day, active musician by night)
  8. Daddy - For A Second Time (link is to show review but check them out too at ReverbNation)
  9. Steve Earle - Townes
  10. Charlie Robison - Beautiful Day
  11. Robert Earl Keen- The Rose Hotel
  12. Gurf Morlix - Last Exit To Happyland
  13. Miranda Lambert - Revolution
  14. Blue Rodeo - The Things We Left Behind
  15. Marshall Crenshaw - Jaggedland
  16. Todd Snider - The Excitement Plan
  17. The Flatlanders - Hills & Valleys
  18. Reverend Horton Heat - Laughin' and Cryin' with Reverend Horton Heat (OK, I admit it. This was a Nashville homer pick. The CD is great. But I went to junior high and high school with...[cough, name drop] Paul Simmons, RHH's drummer. So this release had to make my top 20, right?)
  19. Jeffrey Foucault - Shoot The Moon Right Between The Eyes (you cover Prine = you are in my top 20)
  20. Roseanne Cash - The List
I may spend a few entries over the coming weeks elaborating on some of my selections - including directing readers here to other fantastic blogs reviewing the releases.

Until then, sample these releases at Amazon or iTunes if you aren't familiar with them. Bum a bootleg off me or others to intro you to some of the songs before you buy official releases.And keep your eyes peeled for them to hit your town. Who knows - you might get to catch some great live music without breaking the bank.


Friday, December 11, 2009


Earlier this week, I had lunch in our work cafeteria with co-workers RHTM and Leslie. My head is still spinning from the bizarre variety of topics we covered in about an hour. One topic, of all things, was chickens. Chicken houses. Laying houses. Breeding houses. Processing plants. Disease management. Culling. Etc.

I don't even remember how the subject came up or why we continued it.

But after 4 days of that conversation still rattling around in my noggin, I was reminded this morning of the song written by Hayes Carll and Ray Wylie Hubbard titled simply enough Chickens.

Powered by

Cluck, cluck, cluck y'all.


Monday, December 7, 2009

The Power of a Name

After seeing Billy Joe Shaver live last week and playing Robert Earl Keen's Merry Christmas from the Family as part of the holiday season, I got to thinking about other "three named" performers. Most folks just roll with two names, but some singers opt for that extra one. Now, we could debate the merits of the extra name; however, one thing is not debatable. Three-named singers whip the living tar out of their single-named peers. I present these examples as compelling proof.

  • Robert Earl Keen v. Cher
  • Jerry Jeff Walker v. Morrissey (What's with this guy? He has one name yet two R's and 2 S's in it. A bit pretentious if you ask me.)
  • Billy Joe Shaver v. Pink
  • Ray Wylie Hubbard v. Beyonce
  • The Beat Farmers' Country Dick Montana v. Prince - can you imagine that as a twin bill?
  • Ronnie Van Zant v. Madonna
  • Walter Salas-Humara v. Sting
  • John Cougar Mellencamp v. Bono - Whoa, hold on! Its a Bono upset win over the 3-named JCM. Oh well, ya can't win 'em all.
  • Townes van Zandt v. Jewel
  • Jimmie Dale Gilmore v.Bjork
  • David Lee Roth v. Nena (of 99 Luft Balloons 1-hit wonder fame + she fails because of those hairy pits)
  • Ronnie James Dio v. Coolio
  • David Allen Coe v. Enya

And even with only a middle initial vs. a full middle name, its still a win for the three-name crowd.

  • Tom T. Hall v. Yanni

Now, the examples can continue if necessary. But I'm pretty sure I've presented slam-dunk, case-closing, proof-positive evidence that the tri-namers overwhelm the uni-named. They may not outsell them, out-MTV them, or out-Q-score them. But they out-talent them six days a week and twice on Sunday (or maybe its thrice).

As evidenced by the Bono victory over Mellencamp, I concede the conclusion is not one of 100% annihilation. So you can spare me the following examples:

  • Beck over Mary Chapin Carpenter
  • Usher over Lee Ann Womack

Otherwise, tell me where I'm wrong. I'm all ears.

a proud member of the three-named club

Friday, December 4, 2009

Clarity of Communication

I stopped by Mapco Friday morning for a cup of coffee. Its getting to be a regular habit - maybe three or four times a week. Hazelnut coffee, 16 ounces, 69 cents - can't be beaten. Its especially true knowing the coffee at the office - if its even made when I get there or if anyone even bothers to make a fresh pot after one is emptied - will normally be brewed in a carafe that likely hasn't seen soap since before Y2K.

As I'm now a bit of a Mapco regular, I presented my coffee drinker punch card. Six punches = a free cup. Quite the deal. I was one punch away from a freeb!

However, it was my lucky Friday. The clerk said "I'm just going to give you this cup for free. We're changing to a 5 punch card next week. So I'll just treat yours that way hon." Awesome.

I was grateful - don't get me wrong. But as someone who generally wants that next piece of info, I had to ask for clarification. Just haaaddd to ask.

TMC: So how is this going to work? Are you going to still have double-punch Monday where really I only have to buy four cups? Or are you doing away with double-punch Monday as part of the 5 punch card?

Clerk: Um-hmm. Yep, that's what we're doing.

TMC: But...oh, OK. Sure. Well have a good weekend.

Trust me, I'm going Monday. Surely, communication is clearest at the beginning of a new week with a cup of hot joe and a punch card in hand.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Billy Joe Shaver at Nashville's Exit-In

Nashville's music scene been berry, berry good to me the last 12 months or so. I've seen Robert Earl Keen, Todd Snider, Corb Lund and The Hurtin' Albertans, and Guy Clark. Tuesday night, I was able to ladle out a bit from my bucket list as I got to see Billy Joe Shaver for the first time. He didn't play the Ryman, the Nashville Arena, War Memorial Auditorium, or any other fancy place. Oh no, he instead took the stage at the famed Exit-In.

No question bars and clubs have changed - at least in the few I choose to frequent. The rowdiness is not as rowdy. The smokiness is often the result of fog machines vs. cigarettes. Many brands of beer are served in plastic long-neck bottles vs. glass ones having that distinct CLINK sound when they embrace each other in the garbage can. But the thing that hasn't changed about being in a club vs. an arena is a band's ability to be front and center with their audience, and Billy Joe seemed to really enjoy that aspect of performing.

A co-worker/friend of mine and BJS noob went with me to the show. Rather than continue to refer to her by such a long and awkward intro, I'll refer to her from here on as the Red Headed Tard Magnet (RHTM) for reasons to be explained later.

Jonny Corndawg, a local Nashville songwriter, opened the show and was quite talented and funny. He burned through a short 40 minute set, but he really had a lot of fun with the audience.

His band scalded some licks too. While the band's performance was pretty tight, their looks were quite varied. Looks ranged from a road-tested, full-bearded picker to a bald-headed, groomed bearded, Bear Bryant-fedora-sporting drummer to a chick bassist to a preppy-dressing geetar slinger who looked like he may just been picked up in the van off Vanderbilt's campus.

One of the fun yet challenging parts of listening to a band with whom you are not familiar is trying to absorb all the lyrics while filtering out all the room chatter that normally accompanies an opening act. Corndawg sang some song with the refrain "Red on the head like a tick on a dawg". Or at least that's what we thought he sang. The next few moments went something like this:
  • RHTM yelled in my ear "what did he just say?" (She's got red hair so it made sense she'd wanna know.)
  • TMC: "Was it tick on a dog?"
  • RHTM: "I couldn't tell"
  • TMC as song ends and band comes off stage to JC can do some solo singin': "So ask 'em"
  • RHTM to band member: "What was that song y'all just sang?"
  • Band member: says something to her but inaudible to me
  • RHTM turns to TMC wide-eyed and laughing: "Well, we were close. But it wasn't tick."
After his set ended, he and the rest of the band joined the audience for Billy Joe's performance. Interestingly, Jonny blogged about an interview on Tuesday that he did with Billy Joe back in the summer in Chattanooga, TN.

As Jonny's set was winding down, we had the misfortune of meeting Tard #1. He was an older feller, maybe early 60s. Drunk. Pasty white pallor. From St. Louis he told us - yet had written some sort of book about Nashville. Not sure else how to describe him other than perhaps as an older version of Kip from Napoleon Dynamite - only without the 'stache.

We were first "introduced" to Tard #1 as he tried to find the men's room. We were standing along a wall near the stage when he strolled up and started pawing at the wall. I finally asked him what he was doing, and he said he was looking for the bathroom. I told him it was up the hill - up some stairs behind the stage. For whatever reason, I reckon he was looking for some sort of hidden trap door - maybe one of those revolving kinds in fancy libraries in Scooby Doo or Young Frankenstein. A code knock on the door - shave and a haircut, two bits - and the door would spin 180 degrees putting you right in front of a urinal. Maybe, I don't know.

We were hoping that fun little encounter was the end of it, but alas it wasn't. He returned, talked to me about making a million dollars if he could just sell 80,000 copies of this book no one had heard of. Then he turned his attention to RHTM (told ya I'd get there). He bragged about drinking a beer with Billy Joe in Printers Alley years ago, spoke about BJS's chopped off fingers, and other terribly entertaining stories. From there, I turned my attention to Billy Joe's opener of Georgia on a Fast Train. For the first few songs, RHTM's head was on a swivel from listening to Tard #1, rotating back to me with a look of "HELP", back to Billy Joe on stage, back to Tard, and so on. I simply drank by PBR, enjoyed the music, and smiled wryly. Figured it was the price she had to pay as a Billy Joe rookie.

Right out of the gate, Billy Joe introduced his band members. Among them was a 15 year-old guitarist whose cheeks were as rosy as the day he was born - a razor hasn't touched them yet. I didn't catch his name or how he got to BJS's band (Tard #1 was too busy telling us another story.) The kid dressed the part, and he was a pretty good picker. Its got to be a mind-blowing experience to be 15 and playing in a club, bar, or honky-tonk with a 70 year-old songwriting legend.

On with the show. Here's your set list - with a bit of commentary throw in along the way for good measure...
  1. Georgia on a Fast Train - The thing that had me smiling from note #1 was how spry BJS still is. From Georgia to the signature ending You Just Can't Beat Jesus Christ, he pranced all around the stage.
  2. Honky Tonk Heroes - after this one, BJS pulled out his iPhone and said "Now I'll tell ya. This iPhone thang, it ain't no John Deere tractor. This thang is driving me crazy. Oh shit, its a'ringin'. Let me see - how do I turn it off?"
  3. That's What She Said Last Night
  4. Black Rose
  5. You Wouldn't Know Love (a'cappella)
  6. You Asked Me To
  7. Anti-Suicide Story > Ragged Old Truck - Right before he kicked it off, he quipped "Behind every good man stands a woman saying 'you can't do that'."
  8. Old Chunk of Coal
  9. Memories of Eddy > Star in my Heart (a'cappella) - What was remarkable about this song was the room's response. During the first few songs and for the remainder of the show, the Exit-In had a low murmur in it just as all clubs and bars do as a singer or band performs. But as Billy Joe got into the second line of this song, the whole room became noticeably silent. Everyone was focused on his never-ending love for Eddy, keeping the memory of him alive, and delivering a tough-love message to others who might be listening and having struggles of their own.
  10. Live Forever
  11. BJS then gave a couple of shout-outs folks in the crowd - including Todd Snider. I was really hoping he'd be there to join in with Good News Blues. Billy Joe called out to Todd to come up and play. The crowd roared for Todd to do just that. Billy Joe then ordered him to get up on stage. Then he asked, then pleaded, and then begged. Finally, he just gave up and asked if Todd might be out getting high. Then he moved on without him. As a result, Good News Blues wasn't performed.
  12. Hottest Thing in Town
  13. When The Word Was Thunderbird (w/drum solo) - As Jason McKenzie was banging the skins for a multi-minute drum solo, BJS slipped off to stage right to hit the head before returning for the rest of the show. When he left the stage, Tard #1 set off in pursuit. He returned a few minutes to tell RHTM "Billy Joe said he remembered us having that beer in the Alley!" Uh...yeah...sure Tard #1. I'm sure he meant it. And I'm sure every girl in a bar is the first one to have ever been told she's the purtiest one there.
  14. I've Found My Weakness In You (featuring bassist Nick Gaitan on vocals/acoustic guitar) - This was the moment RHTM and I had been waiting for. We moved to another part of the floor to break away from Tard #1.
  15. 'Til The Cows Come Home (featuring guitarist Lanky Moore on vocals and harp)
  16. Good Ol' USA
  17. Honey Bee
  18. Ride Me Down Easy - Up until this point, BJS had downed a few bottles of water. But I guess he wanted a little burst to carry him through to the end so out came a can of Red Bull. Now, I've been waiting for several years to see the legendary Billy Joe Shaver in concert. The two things I did not expect to witness from this 70 year-old Texan, however, were his use of an iPhone and wrasslin' the Red Bull. Quite amazing.
  19. Been That Way - Not sure about title for this one. He said it was a new one. - Unbelievably, during this song Tard #2 decided to make his presence known to RHTM. Again, I'm not sure the best way to describe him with words. Instead, imagine him as older version of Stork from Animal House. You know - the one who fired off to Blutarsky "So what we 'spose to do now moron?"
  20. Love Is So Sweet
  21. Tramp on Your Street
  22. Try and Try Again - this one got the old guys moshing for some reason - Tard #2 really got it rolling. Tard #3 who up until this point stood like he was wearing cement sandals came alive. Tipping the scales at probably about 280 with his cowboy hat and down vest suddenly started dancing like he had learned Blue Man Group's Rock Concert Movements - especially RCM #2 (at 1:36 mark). Then without much warning, Tards #2 and #3 start drifting in unison towards RHTM! We had to beat a hasty exit to the side of the room to avoid them - while trying to keep a lookout for the Return of Tard #1.
  23. You Can't Beat Jesus Christ closed the show as I think it does with all of his shows.
In a kind-hearted, paternal moment, Billy Joe lightly kissed each member of his band on the head as they were winding down the last part of the song. He likely does that with each show, but it was a touching moment to see. Almost 10 years have passed since Eddy Shaver's death, and I'm sure a night doesn't go by that Billy Joe doesn't visualize him still on stage with him amongst the rest of the band.

As he wound down the show, Billy Joe thanked a bunch of people - many of whom I didn't know and many whose names I couldn't understand as he mumbled them into the microphone. The best shout-out, however, was "thank you to Todd Snider for leaving early".

The show was over and done with right about midnight. With the show on a work night, it was time to head for the house. Only one problem. RHTM suggested we have one more round at a bar across the street. One more beer led to one new shot - some sort of Key Lime Pie shooter.

I made it to work on time Wednesday morning but wasn't worth a lot. I probably had no business getting those last 2 rounds. But the invitation by RHTM and my acceptance of it makes me Tard #4 I guess.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Helping the Homeless of Nashville

Homeless folks struggle to eke out a life on the streets every day of the year. I don't even begin to pretend I have a full understanding of all the causes for homelessness. Some folks have drug or alcohol problems. Some suffer from domestic abuse and head to the streets to avoid it. Some find themselves on the streets due to mental illness. Some are on the street as the result of multiple or even a single indiscretion. Some are lifers on the street. Some are homeless for only a short period of time. Some have recently become homeless because of their bottomed-out economic situation. Some hold jobs but simply don't make enough from one week to the next to secure and maintain a place to live.

Regardless of the reason why, the facts remain the same. Folks are homeless, they're vulnerable, and you can help in ways perhaps you haven't of. This time of year I wanted to highlight a few ways for individuals to help for a couple of reasons.
  • One, its getting friggin' cold on the street, and warm, safe places to stay can be scarce. Support organizations need volunteered time and financial support to provide housing, food, clothing, and other types of relief.
  • Two, an attitude of giving is in the air this time of year, and folks are seeking ways to help with dollars and/or time.
Here are a few ways to get involved - especially if you are in the Nashville, TN area.

Wednesday, December 9
- Project Homeless Connect at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville - Project Homeless Connect is a one-day event to provide one-stop professional support, community agency services, and quality of life resources to homeless individuals and families. Homeless individuals and families can get medical assistance, shoes, foot care, dental care, haircuts, job assistance, legal help, etc. PHC has several opportunities to help - including helping at some of the individual support booths, data entry as folks are processed through the reception area, greeting folks with a smile, etc. Visit PHC on the web, follow them on Twitter @PHCNashville, and volunteer by clicking here. I'll be there from 8:00 until noon helping with Room in the Inn's booth.

(Hat tip to Kevin Barbieux)

Sunday, December 13 - Eddie & Martha Adcock will host the 10th Annual Bluegrass Benefit Concert to support Room in the Inn and the homeless at the famed Station Inn.

Wednesday, December 16
- Nashville Unlimited - Each December, Nashville session bassist Dave Pomeroy hosts Nashville Unlimited, a Christmas music show, to benefit Room in the Inn, a phenomenal ministry supporting Nashville's homeless. This year's concert is December 16 at Christ Church Cathedral. No tickets are sold, and an admission price isn't set. People who attend are simply asked to donate at the door what the heart and wallet agree to. Admission is first come, first serve until the pews are full and fire codes say "no mas". The artist line-up is never announced in advance either. You can always expect Nashville Mandolin Ensemble and Three Ring Circle to perform (Hint: Buy NME's out-of-print Gifts CD if you want to really enhance your Christmas music collection). But everyone else is generally a surprise. In past years, I've seen folks like John Prine, Emmylou Harris, The Steeldrivers (vid), Riders In The Sky, and Tommy Emmanuel (vid). Here is my blog entry about the 2008 show. Wait...was I really still blogging on MySpace 12 months ago? Wow.

Outside of Nashville? Don't worry about it. The one truism about homelessness is you can find such folks in just about every city. Simply find a way to get involved to help.

An additional way you can help year-round is to prep a few "manna bags". Do you travel? If so, grab the unused soap, shampoo, and hand lotion from your hotel room and add it to a ziploc bag when you return. Add a few other essentials or nice-to-haves (e.g. a pair of socks - priceless for life on the street, small tube of toothpaste, toothbrush, prepaid phone card, 2 or 3 Nutrigrain or power bars, a bottle of water, disposable razor). Voila! - you've got a manna bag you can give someone living on the street! Keep a couple of these in your car, and give them away when you see someone in need. You obviously don't have to be in Nashville to make this effort happen.

For more ideas about what to include, visit these sites:
For a first hand blog account from someone who lives on the street, read The Homeless Guy's blogs (different entries at each blog):

Friday, November 27, 2009

Eliza Gilkyson to put you in Christmas spirit

Hard to believe Thanksgiving is behind us and its now a push towards Christmas. Where exactly did 2009 go anyway?

Rather than charge all-out, full-speed, max-stress towards Christmas, relax a bit and enjoy the journey of the next few weeks. Perhaps you can start by enjoying this laid back 2004 show from Eliza Gilkyson.

St. David's Episcopal Church - Austin, TX
December 10, 2004
KGSR FM broadcast

01. Children Go
02. Sanctuary
03. Prayer 2000
04. Announcer
05. Dreidel Dreidel
06. Dark Side Of Town
07. What Child Is This?
08. Interview

01. Winter Wonderland
02. Instrumental
03. We Three Kings
04. Intro
05. Easy Rider
06. In My Dreams
07. intro
08. false start
09. Peace Round-> O Come O Come Emanuel-> Peace Round
10. talk
11. Down To The River To Pray
12. Auld Lang Syne
13. Peace Call

Sample Track: Children Go

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

2009 entry no. 5 of I'm Thankful For...

Final in a series...a cornucopia of random stuff

I'm thankful for:
  • the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. I expect their games on TV just as much as I expect the sun to rise in the east.
  • brown sugar pie made by my mother. For 364 days of the year, its a toss-up between my two favorite desserts made by her - this one or her banana pudding. But on Thanksgiving Day - its brown sugar pie hands down.
  • the beginning of Christmas show season. From childhood to adult age to parent age and beyond, I still enjoy watching shows such as A Charlie Brown Christmas, How The Grinch Stole Christmas (the cartoon narrated by Bela Lugosi - not the Jim Carrey movie), Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase, and of course all the Rankin-Bass Christmas episodes. And as much as I cringe to admit it publicly, I even bought The Homecoming on DVD last year. I never much cared for The Waltons TV series, but I think this movie is a classic. (12-02-2009 edit: It was Boris Karloff not Bela Lugosi who had the Grinch voice over. To quote Bugs Bunny, "what a maroon". DOH!)
  • four cups of coffee in the morning.
  • a day with immediate and extended family on Thanksgiving Day. The meal was overwhelming, the discussions were great (except for that annual, awkward, under his breath rant from my mumbling, bigoted, racist uncle), and multiple vintages of homemade wine made by a non-bigoted uncle were tasted-tested by folks from Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida who gathered under one roof today.
  • John Irving's novels.
  • Americana music and its fan base. I've listened to this type of music for the better part of 20 years. Yet until recently, the type of music I've grown to enjoy really didn't have a genre label. Also, my immediate circle of friends didn't know about and/or particularly care for artists such as Joe Ely, Robert Earl Keen, Blue Rodeo, Townes Van Zandt, Wilco, Roger Miller, etc. The web has helped me realize, however, how many others do enjoy this type of music.
  • NASCAR and Nashville Predators hockey. Can't get enough of either.
  • the four distinct seasons and three grand divisions of Tennessee.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

2009 entry no. 4 of I'm Thankful For...

Today's thankful theme...this nation, its liberties and freedoms, and those that defend them now and have defended them in the past.
  • My father served in the Air Force in the 1950s.
  • My great uncle, who I never met, served in World War II...but never returned.
  • My son's scoutmaster served in the Navy during World War II.
  • Several co-workers from days gone by served in various branches before working for us.
  • We just extended a job offer to a college senior to work for us beginning next summer. He served proudly in the navy before returning to school to get his degree.
  • The son of a friend of mine is a member of the Kansas National Guard. He is currently deployed to "parts unknown" for an extended hitch.
I couldn't be prouder of this last young man. We first met when he was about 10 years old. He had just caught the fever of NASCAR racing - something I jumped on myself in the mid 1970s. He, his brother, his dad, random others, and I went to several races together in the early 1990s - Daytona, Talladega, Charlotte, Atlanta. As a matter of fact, it was he and his brother who hung the nickname "toomuchcountry" on me. Well, actually it was spoken as a bit on an insult. But I've worn it as a badge of honor ever since. Fast forward about 20 years, and this now almost 30 year-old "kid" is serving his country in uniform. He's not my child, but he certainly has my admiration and pride.

The freedoms we have today - the freedom to blog, tweet, text, and e-mail; freely worship the risen Savior or even a friggin' shrubbery; say what we want and listen to what we want; not testify against one's self; not have the po-leece come rummaging unreasonably through all your stuff; to own a gun; etc. - these are precious to this nation and us as individuals.

They have been repeatedly attacked by many different forces, but they've also been repeatedly defended by the folks in military uniform. If you are reading this and are serving or have served in the military - thank you!

I cannot imagine living in a country without these freedoms. I cannot imagine not having a military committed to defend them. And I cannot imagine a Thanksgiving without turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, and the NFL.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2009 entry no. 3 of I'm Thankful For...

Today's shout-out goes to Boy Scouts of America...

My son and I have been involved in Boy Scouts for about the last 4-1/2 years. He has gone from a bear cub scout to an Arrow of Light Webelo scout to entry-level Tenderfoot boy scout rank to now a Life rank scout.

For me, I've gone from ...
  • being on the sidelines as he and my wife worked through his early cub scout experience
  • to signing-on as a last-minute, pinch-runner den leader of his Cub Scouts Webelos posse when his existing leader chose to move on to another pack
  • to helping him earn his first few ranks and merit badges as a Boy Scout
  • to observing other parents get involved with helping other kids progress
  • to signing up as an assistant scoutmaster to help other kids
  • to teaching a few merit badges on my own
  • to having enough confidence in myself and earning confidence from other leaders and parents to plan and execute multi-day trips hours away from home.
I'm really trying not to sound as if I'm wrenching my shoulder while patting myself on the back. But I'm pretty sure my son likely would not have joined Boy Scouts if I had not stepped in to struggle my way through a year as a Webelo leader to help him complete Cub Scouts . He and I both would then have missed the fun and growth experiences we've had the last few years. Instead of trying to sound like I'm grandstanding, I am thankful for having the chance to watch my own kid grow and assist in the development of other kids.

With immense pride, I've watched my boy grow from a 10 year-old kid who I thought might flame out his first few months of scouting to one who is now a few months, a project, and couple of merit badges away from being an Eagle scout. He's gone from being a introverted kid quite unsure of himself to an introverted, developing young man seeking and performing leadership roles and who is regularly complimented by other adult leaders for his maturity and the example he sets for other scouts.

Back in June, I blogged about the passion and commitment of my son's 80+ year-old scoutmaster and the admiration I have for him. He's dedicated over 50 years of his life, time, and resources to grooming young men. In addition, he is a World War II navy vet and a lifelong resident of the community that I've called home for only the last six years. Recently, he and I were simply chatting about the Pioneering merit badge he teaches every year or two. Next thing I know, an e-mail is sent to everyone saying he and I would be teaching it between November and March. Had anyone else just assumed I'd commit to this without direct agreement, I'd be pretty bent. But because of the appreciation I have for him and for what he's done for this country, for other young men, and for my son specifically, I'm all-in. I'm truly thankful for the opportunity to spend time with him learning from him and also teaching the kids.

I didn't have the opportunity to participate in scouting as a kid other than one year of cub scouting. And serving as a scout leader certainly wasn't on my bucket list of things to do as an adult. Being involved with scouting, however, has been very rewarding. This old dawg has learned a few new tricks. Having the opportunity to work with these kids has been very cool and humbling for me - and hopefully a positive experience for them.

Test me baby. A shear lashing, a square knot, or a tautline hitch? Please, they're all mine. I own 'em. A kid who has never done more than 1 chin-up, built a rope bridge, used power tools, kayaked a river, spent a night in a cave or improved his grades from B's to A's in one grading period? Oh yeaaahhh, THAT is cause for celebration! High-fives, shoulder chucks and back slaps are the order of the day. I have no desire to be a surrogate parent for these kids nor the primary confidant of a young teen. It is awfully cool, however, when these young'uns connect with you and care enough to share some key accomplishments.

Tying this entry to my previous two "I'm Thankful For..." entries:
  • I'm very thankful my employer only allows me the flexibility of being involved with my son and other scouts as often as necessary.
  • I've built a lot of new friendships the last few years - both with other adult leaders and with scouts who I've seen grow from awkward kids to young adults.
I do wonder sometimes though if I maybe got involved as a scout leader simply because chicks dig a uniform. At least that was Ernest T. Bass' belief.


Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 entry no. 2 of I'm Thankful For...

Family and friends

I've actually spent more time with friends this year than family. Probably true for most of us.

A couple of uncles steadfastly fought and defeated cancer over the last 12 months. Both have been a big influence on me since childhood, and I'm glad I get to share the turkey, trimmings, and post-meal beer with them again this year.

My kids continue to give me a huge upswell of pride. I'm glad my employer allows me the flexibility to be as involved as I can with their various activities.

My relationship with my brother is essentially non-existent. I haven't heard from him in ages. He did poke up his head at least once this year to let our mother know he was still doing OK. I'm at times bent with him for tuning his mother, father, brother, sister, nieces, and nephew completely out of his life. Other times I simply feel apathetic and resigned that he has no interest in replying to the effort we've made to connect with him. Yet I'm thankful he's still around and apparently healthy and housed.

My best friend since way back when is getting married again New Year's Day. He's had a tumultuous last few years, but now things seem to be looking up for him. For that, I'm thankful.

Through work travel and a couple of NASCAR race trips, I had the chance to reunite with some friends from across the US and Canada. Plus, I met a few new folks along the way - some of whom will likely turn into friends as more years pass. A friend and former co-worker toured the world for a year. We followed him through his blog and then greeted him with a smile, a hug, and a cold beer when he returned safely to the states. A college friend who later moved to Nice, France with his wife and kids vacationed for a few weeks in the states - including a stop in ye ol' hometown. We, along with a mutual friend, and his brother took in a hockey game and caught up on life. All very cool folks - many reasons to be thankful.

Music trading, blogging, and my limited time on Twitter has resulted in some new friendships. Many say its a risk becoming friends with someone you've never met face-to-face, with interaction only through a keyboard, and no idea about the integrity of the persona reflecting back through a monitor. Yet others say I should spend more time developing friendships on the ground where I stand vs. through the web.


Through the use of the web, I've met some great folks who I would otherwise not have met. I'm not throwing around my home address and phone number. I'm not assisting anyone in Nigeria looking to repatriate some dollars back to the states via my bank account. I'm not posing as a 17 year-old girl looking to "meet new friends" nor searching for such a person. And, I'm not looking to the web for my deep-rooted, to-the-core, personal relationships. If I can drink a beer with you, share some tunes, chat about hockey or NASCAR, I can pretty much be friends with you.

Lastly, I've found two great benefits of web-based friendships:
  • I learn about similarities and differences from others about music, life, political leanings, sports passions, business and economics, and cool things to do in other parts of the country or even the world, and
  • Web-based friends don't borrow tools and then never return them.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

2009 entry no. 1 of I'm Thankful For...

The debut of a mini-series of planned blog entries...

Over the next few days, I'm going to blog about a few things for which I'm extremely thankful. They are not intended to be in sequential or priority order. I'll just blog about them as they come to me.

Entry No. 1 - My employer

The last couple of years has been pretty tough for many companies and consequently their employees looking to continue their careers and employment.

The company I've worked for the last 13 years has fared better than many. Yet, we have not been on an island completely away from all the economic mess. About a year ago, many of my co-workers - both in my office and in our operations areas across the company - were laid off in response to economic situations present then and expected to occur in 2009-2011. Furthermore, salaries were not increased in 2009 for those who continued.

I was not laid-off in late 2008 and remain at work today largely in the same role. Even without a salary increase, I am paid a competitive salary allowing my family and me to give, save, and live a comfortable lifestyle.

Also, our annual benefits selection window opened last week, and once again we still have a pretty good selection amongst health and dental plans, discounted term life insurance, retirement, and pre-tax flex spending plans. The company also encourages us to spend time where we can supporting charitable organizations in our community. As a result, I can allocate part of my time each year working with Boy Scouts and Room in the Inn, a fantastic Nashville-based organization providing assistance to the homeless.

A good bit of travel is required as part of my job. Travel gets old a bit at times with airline delays, yet another hotel stay at the same quality yet predictable chain, and a handful of missed kids' events. But its also a lot of fun. I've been afforded the opportunity to visit a dozens of cities I would likely otherwise not have visited. These opportunities have allowed me to experience many great cities (and a couple of regrettable ones), meet a lot of great people, build new friendships, dine and drink at some first class restaurants and low rent dives, and accumulate frequent flier credits to travel outside of work with family. And with the lion's share of the costs being reimbursable company expenses, that makes the visits even better for a cheapskate like me.

Lastly and most important, I've extremely thankful to work with a team of extremely skilled co-workers. Some of these folks are on my immediate team. Some are in other functional groups within our department. Some of them blog (ahem...cough...ozzynelson, squireponderings, loisandjon, the wandering raccoon). Most of them don't. The people I enjoy working with the most are (1) those who make me laugh and (2) those who help me challenge what, how, and why we're doing. (Bonus points are also available to those who also dig NASCAR, have music tastes similar to mine, watch The Office, and don't use hair gel or styling mousse).

The group with whom I work most directly is given an lot of latitude about what things we should be doing, how we do them, and who should be hired to do them. We spend a lot of effort on that last item - finding the right folks. Without my talented co-workers, I'd have neither the enjoyment of work nor the comfort of on-going employment with this company.


Monday, November 16, 2009

A Heavy Metal Epic Failure?

Twenty years ago in 1989, the Grammy Awards debuted an award for Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Performance. Jethro Tull won the award as a "safe" decision by Academy voters. The decision was vociferously boo'd by 98% of folks from the four corners of the globe. (The remaining 2% of confused folks simply said "Huh? What was that?")

Even the band thought they had no chance at winning against fellow nominee Metallica, and they didn't attend the awards show thereby missing their chance to accept their award. After all, you knew it, they knew it, I knew it, and we all knew it. Music with a flute in it is barely in the rock category - much less hard rock or heavy metal. Perhaps only Jethro Tull and The Marshall Tucker Band had the stones to pull off flute tunes in the rock genre - then or now.

Fast forward 20 years: I saw this billboard near Times Square in New York City - an acoustic performance of Jethro Tull songs by frontman Ian Anderson.

An acoustic version of Aqualung - is that really the legacy the Grammy voters intended two decades ago? Ugh, that has to be considered one Heavy Metal Epic Failure.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Newark to New York Part 2

I often view the pairing of Newark and NYC to Oakland and San Francisco. Newark and Oakland are like the desolate, tornado-stricken, black & white, Kansas plains in The Wizard of Oz. Crossing into New York or San Fran is like jumping into the Technicolor portion of the movie. One big difference though: In the movie, a flying house fell on a witch leaving only her legs and ruby slippers sticking out. In New York, I saw several sets of legs sticking out from store fronts and alley ways. But the help they needed was way beyond getting a pair of ruby slippers.

* Disclaimer: The Wizard of Oz is used here merely as a metaphorical reference. I am not a Judy Garland fan nor do I own any ruby slippers nor did I stroll the streets of New York as described below with a pastel sweater knotted around my neck. Not that there is anything wrong with that....

After abandoning my plans to visit NYC Thursday night and staying in Newark all day Friday plus Saturday morning, I was ready to finally set out for New York. Its a piece of cake to catch a train from Newark's Penn Station to New York's Penn Station. Once you poke your head above ground on the NYC side, you'll realize you've just popped out from under the famed Madison Square Garden. From there, its either a few blocks walk or a cab ride to Times Square. We opted for the cab - an experience I've repeated yet never quite gotten used to. Nothing tightens the ol' bum quite like the "thrill" of cabbies dodging in and out of traffic like a NASCAR driver or Gene Hackman in the French Connection.

After purchasing tickets for a Broadway show at the TKTS booth, we roamed around a bit and casually made our way toward W. 55th Street and 7th Avenue where we gorged ourselves at the famed Carnegie Deli.

A big ol' pastrami sammich, onion rings, and a couple of Amstels? Oh yeah, just what the doctor ordered. Wait...I think the doctor's orders will eventually be something else resulting from this meal. But dadgum, this was some good eating!

Following dinner, I took my sweet time to stroll down Broadway towards Times Square and soak in as much of the midtown experience as I could. A few of the sites along the way included:
  • The Ed Sullivan Theater, home of Dave Letterman - The show obviously wasn't being taped on a Saturday night. But I was pretty sure I saw a room lit above the sign and wondered if Dave might be doing some "show prep" with any of the staff.
  • Times Square - My bucket list overflows with all sorts of random stuff I'd eventually like to try. The pail, however, does not include celebrating New Year's Eve in Times Square. Every time I visit, it truly is a surreal experience to be at the site where the ball drops and seeing thousands of photo-snapping, fast-moving locals and tourists. Its like watching a bunch of ants scurrying about. Yet I experience only a fraction of the number who shoehorn their way into that confining area each December 31. I can't even begin to imagine...
  • St. James Theatre on West 44th Street - We chose to see Finian's Rainbow. This is only the 5th Broadway show I've ever seen. Interestingly (to me at least), our group ended up this year at the same theatre as we did a year ago where we saw Gypsy.
I've grown to enjoy my annual trek to New York. Its not my favorite city, but I do enjoy taking in part of it in the limited time I have to visit. As someone who is "too much country", I suppose New York City is just "too much culture" for me.

After 72 hours or so of Newark and New York, I was ready to head for home. As we made our final approach into Nashville's airport, we suddenly and sharply ascended. The pilot finally spoke once we leveled off and banked to come around for a 2nd attempt. He said flight control radioed about a large flock of birds on the runway and suggested another attempt be made. While it was a bit unnerving when we rapidly went up when we were supposed to be landing, I was glad he took the tower's advice.

But almost as quickly, I chuckled under my breath at the drink I learned about during dinner at the Deli. After the USAirways flight landed safely in the Hudson River earlier this year, some New York bars created a new drink called The Sully in honor of the praised pilot. The drink is 2 shots of Grey Goose with a splash of water. The story sure sounded funnier and the drink idea sound tastier once we were at the gate.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Newark to New York Part 1

A week ago, I flew to Newark, NJ to attend and speak at the 19th World Continuous Auditing and Reporting Symposium at Rutgers University. I'll pause a moment here to let the envious chorus of "oooooh's" subside...

OK, ready to proceed?

Newark is right across the Hudson River from New York City. I'm a mid-size city kind of guy - always have been. Yet, the view of the NYC skyline as the plane descends always leaves me slack-jawed - the Chrysler building, the Empire State Building, and especially the sight of Lady Liberty standing watch over lower Manhattan. Yet, the view will forever remain a bit odd with the twin towers gone. I only go to Newark/New York once a year, but the missing towers are still noticeable even 9 years after I last saw them in 2000.

Right or wrong, various song or album titles, lyrics, and/or artists will often just pop in my head at random points as a contextual reference point. Maybe a musical GPS if you will. So many songs have been written about New York City:
  • Old school: New York, New York - Frank Sinatra
  • Rap: No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn - Beastie Boys
  • Obscure rock: New York Groove - Ace Frehley (formerly of Kiss)
  • Classic pop: New York State of Mind - Billy Joel
  • Horrible, forgettable pop: The Heart Of Rock & Roll - Huey Lewis. Seriously, remember that crap?
New York, New York, is everything they say
And no place that I'd rather be
Where else can you do a half a million things
All at a quarter to three
Newark songs? Eh, not so plentiful. I tried finding some - at Amazon and Lala. Not many offerings. The Newark Airport Boogie vs. The Chairman of the Board? Yeah, right.

Once the plane landed and I got settled in at the Hampton Inn, I had big plans for Bright Lights, Big City Thursday night. I had hoped to pay a visit to the International Bar in the East Village - better known as The I-Bar. You can get a can of Schaefer and a shot of well whiskey for $4! I also learned a nearby club was hosting a Guy Clark tribute show in honor of his birthday (though Guy himself or anyone else I'd ever heard of wasn't playing). And, and, and I learned via Konrad Meissner that Tracy Bonham was playing a couple of shows. Bonham has recorded with the Blue Man Group among other ventures, and Konrad plays drums for about half the bands in New York, including The Silos - one my my faves.

As I studied Google Maps and New York subway routes, darkness set in and rain began to plunk against my hotel window. I then called the club where Tracy and Konrad were playing only to find out the shows were sold-out. A sigh escaped, my enthusiasm disappeared like a fart in the wind, and I talked myself out of doing anything. For all the reasons I wanted to go, I quickly worked up a competing set of reasons not to go:
  • unsure about the safety of walking the East Village at night
  • realizing the silliness of paying fares for trains, subways, and cabs to pay for a $4 Schaefer/Shot combo
  • watching bands start at 11 PM
  • facing the reality of knowing I had to make my meeting at 8:00 the next morning.
After deciding to hang out instead, I Googled restaurants near the hotel and stumbled across Nino's Pizza. Fantastic! Shrimp & pasta with garlic bread delivered from order-to-door in about 15 minutes for only $18. Quality food and some vino from the lounge downstairs - ahhh, who needed NYC?

The conference itself may sound boring. I can hear you saying "C'mon, continuous auditing? Are you serious? " Well...yeah, much of it was boring to be quite candid. But I enjoy attending each year nonetheless. The participants represent academia, auditing software solution providers, Big 4 CPA firm partners, internal auditors, and students from undergraduate, masters, and PhD levels. Are you honestly going to sit there, read that last statement, and not think what a great party guest list this could make?

The individuals the symposium draws is of more importance to me than the content. Its a pretty small gathering (about 100 folks), but it draws a group of folks from all over the place. Over the years, I've met folks from the U.K., Brazil, Venezuela, South Africa, India, Russia, Spain, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Arab Emirates. Clearly some language challenges arise as we try to understand one another. The U.S. is also well represented so I can always find someone who speaks in English as a first language. Plus, with folks from Texas, Georgia, and North and South Carolina in attendance, well hell, I can even slip in a "y'all" every now and again without having to translate for anyone.

The time allotment for my session was whacked to a minimal 10 minutes because the day was running behind. I was told to abandon my prepared stuff and just kind of wing it by making some comments of my own and taking a question or two. So I did, but I couldn't resist sneaking in a bit of toomuchcountry humor. After talking a couple of minutes about the economic struggles of the US in general and our industry in particular, I remarked not everything was bad. I reminded the audience I was from Music City USA and then led into the bright spots by dropping the line of a Billy Joe Shaver song Good News Blues (covered in this video by Todd Snider).

After a day of sessions on Friday, we adjourned as we do each year to dinner at the Spanish Pavilion in Harrison NJ.

The restaurant is a bit mis-named as I understand it. Regulars tell me the menu is more Portuguese food than Spanish. But what do I care? I smile politely and ask "Hey, could you pass the calamari and paella back down this way please? And yes, I would enjoy another glass of Tempranillo. And Sangria?? Well sure, if you're offering."

Saturday morning was more of the same though the clarity of it isn't great. The Spanish Pavilion gathering splintered with many of us going to the Hampton Inn lounge while others turned in for the night (the wiser choice perhaps). From there, the number of players vs. posers shrunk even more until finally a couple of us remained talking until 3AM.

My motivation for hanging tough of Saturday morning was to make it to Saturday afternoon and evening for the eventual trip to New York - the subject of part 2.