Monday, September 28, 2009

Chicago…Its a go

Southwest tickets…check
American Girl “Date with Dad” reservations…check
Daughter excited about the trip…check

Everything else is just gravy.

Thanks for the feedback, the encouragement, practical alternatives, and even calling me out for being a cheapskate.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Guy Clark ... one last thing

I knew I'd leave something out in blogging about Guy Clark's Belcourt show. Guy's new song The Coat has this opening stanza.
Well the sun comes up on nowhere
I got nowhere left to hide
I need some scrambled eggs
and whiskey on the side.
Now, while I haven't had eggs and Jack D. for breakfast before, I did have scrambled eggs with a Kraft single on top, some sausage, and a Schaefer for breakfast last May at the NASCAR race in Charlotte.

That's gotta count for something, right?

Like Guy says, sometimes the song writes you.


Guy Clark at the Belcourt Theatre

Cross another line off the bucket list. I finally got to see long-time singer-songwriter Guy Clark at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville last night.

Guy has been writing songs about as long as I've been alive. But I've really only become a regular listener and fan the last three or four years. He's probably best known for his song L.A. Freeway - but as the songwriter not as the singer. Jerry Jeff Walker covered it in the early 1970s, and it became his signature song.

Guy is getting up in years, but he and his band were on their game. They performed in a bit of a unique setting. Rather than everyone stand at microphone stands all evening, they sat in chairs and snugged the mics up to sing or to amplify their instruments. He said that's how they recorded the CD so they figured they might as well perform that way as well. During the show, guitarist Verlon Thompson was so casual at times he just propped his boot heels on his monitor as he strummed along and sang harmony vocals.

Guy played 2 sets for a total of about 2 hours - pretty good for a well-traveled man well into his 60s. Set 1 was a top to bottom look at his new CD Sometimes The Song Writes You. He proved yet again his songwriting skills have aged over time as well as a barrel of Tennessee sour mash.

Guy and the band returned after a brief intermission, and he immediately turned the next few songs over to guitarist Verlon Thompson and multi-instrumentalist Shawn Camp. These two guys blew me away with their picking, singing, and song choices.

Shawn, who played mandolin, violin, and slide during Guy's songs, picked up his guitar to play Sis Draper and Magnolia Wind - a song he co-wrote with Guy. Instead of singing it with him, Guy kicked back, turned over the stage to Shawn and Verlon for this one, crossed his arms, and smiled wryly as they played. Here's a clip of Shawn playing it a while back - not from last night - but you'll get the idea.

Then it was Verlon Thompson's turn. He played Joe Walker's Mare and had the audience cheering like crazy when he was done. Here again is a video of him playing the song - albeit not from last night. It will still give you an idea of what an amazing geetahr picker Verlon really is.

Some other highlights from last night include:

I met a guy who moved to middle Tennessee about a year ago after a lifetime in California. He and his wife have followed Guy for over 20 years. He said they used to go to the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. One year, he got to hang out a bit with Townes Van Zandt and a number of other performers in Townes' motor home. After he left for the evening, he awoke to find out Townes was still stirring around 3 AM, had gotten behind the wheel of the motor home, and then promptly ran over the ticket kiosk.

In introducing his cover of Townes' If I Needed You, Guy said "This next song was written by Townes Van Zandt. Townes couldn't be with us tonight." It was a joke at which we could all laugh. The song includes a stanza that reads:
The lady's with me now since I showed her how
To lay her lily hand in mine
Loop and Lil agree she's a sight to see
And a treasure for the poor to find
Guy said Loop and Lil were Townes' parakeets and said he used to take them on airplanes tucked inside the pockets of his sport coat. He said he picked him up one time from the Nashville airport and Townes was sporting a grin as his jacket was flapping from the birds trying to get out.

Verlon Thompson sang a song about his mama called Darwettia's Mandolin. In the song, he refers to Greasy Bend, Oklahoma. He said its area along the river that got its name after some hog farmers and watermelon farmers got into a scrap. The story goes that after the battle the river's edge was covered in dead pigs and watermelon rinds. The whole theater was laughing.

As the show started winding down, folks started yelling out requests. Guy tried to talk over most of them, and he did agree to play a few of them. Someone up front meekly said Randall Knife, and he immediately said he'd do that one. He went immediately into it without accompaniment from the band. At the end he got a standing ovation for it, and he seemed to even shed a quick tear in acknowledgment and the memory of his dad.

Guy closed his show with a song titled Boats To Build he co-wrote with Rodney Crowell. The song was inspired by songwriter Richard Lee's boat-building hobby. Richard wrote the song Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue. Crystal Gayle turned it into her best-known country hit. Guy said "let me tell you a little secret. Richard wrote that song for his dog who had glaucoma. But I don't think he ever told Crystal Gayle."

A great night of music. I'm sorry I missed listening to him the last quarter-century, but I'm glad I'm making up for it now.

I've also learned the show was taped last night and will likely be uploaded for sharing by early next week. Let me know if you are interested in the show, and I'll help point you in the right direction once it becomes available.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Bonding v. Spending Conundrum

Fall break for my kids' school is in mid-October. As a general rule, we're a "staycation" family for fall break. The family just hangs out at home, the kids might have a sleepover with friends, they might take a mini-trip to my in-laws, and I generally just continue to work - either at the office or on a "honey-do" list around the house..

A couple of weeks ago, I thought maybe we'd mix it up a bit this year. Take a mini-vacation. Head to the Smokies. To Destin. To St. Louis. Whatever. So I pitched it, but my idea was DOA. My son already had a scout trip planned that weekend. My daughter had a doctor's appointment on one of the two days she was out of school. Yada yada yada.

I didn't bail on the idea completely. Kind of just retreated and thought a bit more about it. And then Tuesday, it hit me.

Since my first proposal, my son's first scout trip was cancelled but then replaced with another. My daughter's doctor called to say their appointment software screwed up, and she was double booked with another patient. (Always the software - never the registrar.) So they moved her appointment and freed up her day. And the wife generally enjoys an empty house.

So last night, I proposed to take my daughter to Chicago for a couple of days while my son is on his backpacking trip. Win for him as he gets time outdoors. Win for the wife as she'll have an empty house. Win for my daughter in getting to do something fun (I hope). Win for me in scoring major points with my girl.

Among things I've brainstormed to do in a 2 to 3 day period are :
  • the Sears Tower (perhaps including the new *gulp* observation outcrop skydeck).

  • The Buckingham Memorial Fountain in Grant Park (where I hope to sing the words to the theme song for "Married With Children")
    • The Blue Man Group show
    • Ferris wheel at Navy Pier
    • And as painful as this is to type...the Date With Dad event at the American Girl store.

    So the idea seed has been planted in my own mind and shared with the wife. It has not yet been discussed with my daughter yet because here is the dilemma I face.

    I'm cheap. Frugal. Tightfisted. I like to travel...for work. I enjoy trying different foods and booze...on an expense report. I like a variety of entertainment options...when I can get comp tickets.

    This mini-weekend idea of mine may well cost me a grand with 2 airfares, show tickets, American Girl tea and souvenirs (blech...), 2 hotel nights, meals, etc.

    Let me hear from you. Chime in here. I need to hear from my peeps like never before. Spend the jack for a weekend with my 11 year-old? Or hold onto it and just do something fun locally?

    Comment early and often as time is of the essence.


    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    Continuing Education: Most Awkward Moments

    Last week, our department was off-site at a Tennessee State Park for some training, company updates, juvenile "team building" activities (some of which bordered on code of conduct violations), golf, and parties that often sparked quicker than a California wild fire.

    Earlier today, Ozzy Nelson (click to follow him on Twitter) succinctly blogged his five favorite moments of the training week. I'd now like to blog my favorite awkward moments of the week.

    • Several of our speakers during the week were company management leaders who once worked in our department. Routinely, our senior vice president referred to each one of them as a "former alumni" - the rare, double, grammatical faux pas.

    • One expects to encounter a bit of wildlife when in a state park. Squirrels, mice, snakes, rabbits, loons, and deer live off the land as people and cars visit amongst them. When the wildlife arrives, however, uninvited to a late night party where more folks are packed into a cabin than the fire marshal allows, well that's a different scenario entirely. That's apparently why it made perfect sense (?) for one of my fellow seasoned directors to take issue with a raccoon climbing a tree just outside the front door. He went into the night screaming "get outta here!" like a banshee and tried to cold-cock the coon out of the tree with a half-full beer can. He was unsuccessful but received an 8 score from the judges for his animated behavior and creative use of bland Miller Lite.

    • An otherwise funny, engaging motivational presentation was suddenly made awkward by the inclusion of ebonics. We were introduced to the words "dillipline" (supposedly discipline + diligence) and "excellecution" (excellence + execution I believe it was). I tried to search for these words at but got the blue screen of death.
    • Representatives from our external accounting firm were with us for a couple of days and contributed multiple awkward moments including but not limited to: (1) using dozens of PowerPoint slides with way too much 10 point font detail, (2) asking trivia questions such as "who can name all the characters on Saved By The Bell?", (3) having no swag or candy or anything to give away to the one person who actually answered that question, (4) grabbing the booty of one of our female co-workers during a roller-skating game of capture the flag - after he'd already snagged the bandanna from her hip pocket, and (5) opening his remarks the next morning with the line "Its good to see so many young, good-looking in the room." Yes sir, they didn't get to be one of the Big 4 by accident.

    • And my favorite awkward moment of the week is courtesy of our assistant vice president for training who uttered these two memorable quotes during the week:

      "I could just spend all night with [unnamed speaker]. He makes me giggle.", and

      "I like it. That was long AND hard." [her response to a sustained round of enthusiastic applause for her two employees who did the yeoman's work in planning and executing the week]


    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Get motivated and get back with me OK?. Zzzz

    This morning's keynote speaker was supposedly one of those motivational speaker guys with words of counsel as to how to sell yourself. Listening to an umpteenth speaker go on for 90 minutes at 8:00 AM with fluff about getting up and taking the world by the tail just didn't enthuse me. So I slept in, awoke to view the San Diego harbor, and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. That trio of events was far more motivating for me to carpe diem.

    Besides, who would buy what I'm selling? My game is the equivalent of Wal-Mart's Ol' Roy dog food - a lot of filler without much substance.

    I just hope the dude doesn't find out my room number and pay me a follow-up visit for remedial teaching like Mr. Hand. That would be totally bogus dude.

    Yawn.. Scritch, scritch.