Friday, April 20, 2012

Ol Dixie is Down

I grew up in Manassas Virginia. I went to Stonewall Jackson Sr. High. Safe to say they put an emphasis on Civil War history. My parents embraced this. I remember many a family vacation to Civil War battlefields.

Levon Helm died yesterday. The first song I ever heard him sing was "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." It's about the Civil War, even though it was written by Robbie Robertson, a Canadian. I love the song now as much as I did the first time I heard it. Part of the reason is Levon's amazing voice.

Obviously Levon would never have won a singing contest. Hell, he would be laughed off of American Idol. Which is why I hate American Idol. I would rather listen to Levon sing than anybody that's ever appeard on that show, including the judges.

Very soon after I heard that Levon was sick, I heard that Dick Clark passed away. I love Dick Clark, but he had a foot in the grave for quite a while. Levon's impending death was a shock to me. He even had a date to play here in Nashville in the near future. I was very worried that the death of Clark would overshadow that of Helm. I'm not sure if it did or not.

Either that or Levon wasn't quite as famous as I thought. Not that it's important. People who know music and love good music know that Helm was legendary. He was the only American member of The Band, and his Arkansas accent fit the style of the group perfectly. One might think the band adjusted their sound to go with his wonderful lilting voice.

Just because The Band hasn't played together in a while, that doesn't mean what they accomplished when they were together was any less impressive. I guess when most peoples' memory of a band is called "The Last Waltz" I guess the endless comebacks would be in poor taste.

On the other hand, The Last Waltz is a true work of art. It was directed by Martin Scorcese, and is widely acknowedged as the greatest concert film of all time. I can't believe it took place in 1976. It doesn't seem that long ago. It holds up today every bit as well as it did when it came out. The music is absolutely timeless. If you haven't seen it, check it out, and you're in for a wonderful experience.

Singing isn't all Levon did, he was the drummer for the band, and he was a multiple instrumentalist. He even appeared in movies. You probably don't realize that you've seen him. He was in The Right Stuff. "Have you got a stick of Beeman's?" He had it, and the deal was "Fair Enough."

I'm not as big a music fan as I used to be. I stopped being interested in new music a few years ago. It seems like music is more fractured now, and that music like that of The Band wouldn't have a place in today's system of labeling. It wasn't country, but it had that feel. It wasn't hard rock or southern rock either. It had a folkish sound. Songs like "Up On Cripple Creek" and "The Weight" defy categorization.

Every so often an artist dies and it hits me really hard. Levon is one of them. When I sing along with him on "Dixie" my voice breaks when he sings "They should never have taken the very best." Levon was one of the best.

I Like to Watch

I used to be into watches. Back before everyone and their 9-year old had a cell phone.

For you kids, a wristwatch is something you wear on your wrist that can tell you what time it is. It's like a cell phone but it only does that one thing. And you wear it on your left hand, so that you can wind it with your right. I know! People used to actually wind their watch every day! Imagine how exhausted we were!

I've never owned an expensive watch, but that doesn't mean I haven't spent a lot of money on them. I have owned a plethora of inexpensive watches of many different styles and colors. I was never fashionable though, so it was never about matching a certain outfit or anything. I would just see a watch and go "hey that's pretty cool" and buy it and wear it for a few months until I'd see another...and so on. I chose them for their novelty sometimes. I had one where the numbers went around instead of a second hand. It confused the hell out of people.

I don't really need to wear a watch. I have a cell phone, I have at least two or three computers within 5 feet of me at almost all times. But sometimes I still wish I had a watch on. It's just more convenient that fishing your phone out of your pocket, pressing the right combination of buttons and hoping the angle of the light is right for you to be able to see the screen.

Especially in meetings. You can be subtle and glance at your watch to know what time it is, or you can make a giant production of picking up your cell phone and clicking away at it as if to say to the person talking "Will I need to shave again before this fucking meeting ever ends?" You may still want to do that, but if you are wearing a watch, you have a choice.

What does wearing a watch say about you? I really have no idea. It's really the only completely accepted type of "jewelry" all guys can get away with. But I still think if you wear a Rolex you're a douchebag. I get it, you can blow more on a useless adornment than I spent on my car. Good for you.

An ordinary watch can be kind of stylish, with a certain amount of function. What is the current take on wristwatches? Is it manly? Does it mean you're old fashioned now? Does it imply responsibility? Or maybe it implies a kind of obsessive behavior. Like wearing suspenders and a belt at the same time.

I really have no idea, I just feel a little different without one on my wrist. Like I'm always on vacation or something.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I Wish I Were Half As Funny As I Think I Am

Have you ever told a joke just to make yourself laugh?

Today @KatGlimmer tweeted: Me in my meeting: "Why am I here?"

@Dugglebogey replied: Sounds like a very metaphysical meeting.

And I proceeded to chuckle to myself at this joke for no less than a half hour.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Monday, April 09, 2012


The last time I was in a bar I ordered a beer. I like beer. It gets you drunk! When I ordered the beer there were two bartenders who heard me order, and they laughed at my pronunciation. Why did they laugh? Because I pronounced the name of the beer right. See, in Tennessee, you are unusual if you say things correctly.

And don't fuck with me on beer names. I am the beer fucking MASTER. You could almost say that beer is my middle name. Except it's actually Robert. But wouldn't Beer be a cool name?

The bartenders were cool about it, repeating my pronunciation and pulling on the tap. Stella ARRR-TWAH! I normally go for more amber colored beers, but I like Stella a bit and I saw the tap and thought what the hell. I had already had a couple and something lighter sounded good.

One of the laughing bartenders had a peculiar kind of accent, especially for Nashville. I asked where he was from and he said Scotland! This was only strange because I was in an Irish pub. I was happy though because I got to use my favorite (only?) Scottish joke which I think I heard from Mike Meyers. "What's Scottish for foreplay? Brace yourself!" He may have laughed. Although the more I think about it he may have scowled.

The other bartender did laugh at my joke. She was the reason we were actually there that night as one of my bar-hopping companions has a humongous crush on her. No matter where we start out we end up at this Irish Pub so he can get some attention from his favorite barkeep. At first I thought it was so he could smoke, since this is the only place I've been in Tennessee where you can smoke indoors. But after a few beers he told me the real reason. He even knows her schedule. Kinda creepy.

It's kind of shocking to me how the attractiveness of the wait staff can play such a vital role in the success of a restaurant/drinking establishment. It had not previously occurred to me that having a few good-looking and friendly folks working the floor can make the difference between people choosing your place to spend their after-work happy hours. I never really decide where we are going when I join the work folks for after-the-day libations. I had no idea how the decisions were being made.

It must make the hiring decisions at those places very difficult. I guess the lesson is if you have Jennifer Anniston waiting tables at the "Flingers" of which you happen to be the lunchtime manager, don't give her shit about the number of buttons on her suspenders. Just shut up and turn up the air conditioning.