Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Random Notes from the Summer Sideshow

I should have known it was gonna be a contentious summer when that big silver SUV with the NOBAMA bumper sticker nearly rolled over my toes which-- as they usually are-- were attached to my feet, in the Stop & Shop parking lot. Don't tell me my toes exude a liberal vibe. Just to be on the safe side, think I'll get a red, white & blue pedicure for insurance.

While we're talking crazy political nimrods: a friend posed a question on Facebook: who's worse: the "Birthers," "Deathers" or "911 Truthers?" Think they're all wacko.... and I doubt we're done with 'em yet!

Sarah Palin traded the Northern Lights of Alaska to launch a career as a star... on Facebook.... Was it a good career move? You betcha!

It's Hammer Time: Tom "the Hammer" Delay signed on as a contestant on the new season of Dancing with the Stars. Thought the disgraced ex-Congressman should have been waltzing off to the Big House by now. Guess he's living up to his last name.... Delay.

Speaking of Dancing, now that she turned down 10 million bucks to slurp coke and act all loopy on American Idol, Paula Abdul may segue into a judging gig on the ABC "celeb" fest. I wish Bravo would tape and air more episodes of Hey Paula, that short-lived reality show was must-see train wreck TV. Since Idol doesn't appreciate Paula for the "gift that she is," the show may have truly jumped the shark. Let's face it, Kara is just too insipid and full of herself w/o any of Paula's unpredictable hi jinx to make the overrated judge's banter worth the watch.

While we're in shark infested waters: have you seen Shark Tank? It's my fav summer show featuring "shark investors" fielding pitches from actual wannabe entrepreneurs. These guys ( and one gal) out trump Trump. The ideas range from the sublime to the ridiculous, and often so do the "sharks" offers. Still can't believe they let the lady with the Post-It Note holder slip through their fingers. It airs Sundays at 9 PM. catch it before it swims away.

The Mets spared their fans yet another September of shame. They had their meltdown in July. With a record number of A players on the DL, not even an uber pep session from Tony Robbins could have salvaged the season. As my dad always said, " wait 'til next year!"

NY Post sports columnist Larry Brooks should be benched for suggesting the Mets shouldn't have sidelined David Wright after he got hit in the head with a 96 mile fast ball... why? According to Brooks' crooked logic, because the team bungled Ryan Church's concussion last season. Huh? Ever hear of learning from your mistakes, Larry?

Still, the new stadium rocked as Paul McCartney returned to Queens for Citifield's inaugural rock concert.... fitting as his old group christened the Mets former home Shea into the rock 'n' roll era. And at 67, Sir. Paul still knows his way around all those silly love songs. And what's wrong with that, I'd like to know?

News Flash: Phil Spector hates prison! The wacko genius record producer, whose notorious gun fetish finally landed behind bars for a lifetime stretch in CA for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, finds the accomodations, cuisine and company all unsavory. Uh, sorry, Phil, that's kinda the point behind this silly punishment business. At least he can't flip his lid.... they don't allow wigs. One consolation: his 29 year old wife brings catered goodies so he can dine in the privacy of his cell. Gives new meaning to "killer cuisine."

Lady Gaga got Miss Piggy all green with envy as she sported a frog decorated coat. No word from PETA....the crazy like a fox activist group known for its outlandish publicity stunts sent the Prez. a special fly capturing machine after Obama swatted a fly during an interview. Then they got fat people, meat eaters, feminists, and fat feminist vegetarians all worked up over a Florida billboard that read SAVE THE WHALES: LOSE THE BLUBBER. Become a Vegetarian. The controversial sign also featured a cartoon silhouette of an obese woman in a bikini. As a fat female friend, who's also a vegan said, "Couldn't they at least have drawn a fat guy?"

The long summer of goodbyes ( I'll have more on this in another column) seemed to have started in June with the untimely death of Michael Jackson. When all is said and done, his death--and all the drama surrounding it--will make the Anna Nicole Smith saga seem like nothing more than a tabloid footnote. At least the self-anointed King of Pop has been spared one posthumous indignity. Thanks to an online poll, the folks at the Iowa State Fair won't immortalize MJ in butter.

Oh, and Michelle Bachman, the nut job Minnesota Congresswoman who-- with all her crazy comments-- may just out Palin Palin, may have some pretty lofty aspirations of her own. Bachman says she's waiting to hear voices before making a Presidential bid. "If the Lord calls me to it, then I'll run," she says. Excuse me, Michelle, the next voice you hear may be Chris Matnhews. I think you left the ear piece in after your ill-fated appearance on Hardball.

I don't know about you, but with all these characters, something tells me the sideshow will continue to play on and on. For my own sanity and yours, may I suggest we heed the advice of that great philosopher, Elvis Costello: "I used to be disgusted. Now I try to be amused."

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Imagining Woodstock

I got to Yasgur's Farm via the Record Department at the old Korvettes in Port Chester, New York. Three or four years late. We were already in the '70's, Watergate was looming and at seven or eight I was hardly feeling any hippy dippy hangover. I was only a kid, but thanks to TV, a cool pair of bright red bell bottoms splattered with white stars and my transistor radio always tuned to AM Top 40 on WABC with Cousin Brucie as my head teacher, I had a groovy vibe.

I loved roaming around the Korvettes' Record Department, pawing albums under the crackly fluorescent lights, inhaling the plastic, vaguely sticky, candy smell. Back then I picked albums based on the singles I had heard on WABC or purely out of youthful whimsy and cover art. Sometimes I'd just grab the nearest album when my mother announced, "Now or never," as she hustled my sister and me to the register. Don't knock random acts of record buying. I was introduced to Sly & the Family Stone, Billy Joel and America thanks to the grab-and-go method ( I'll lament the decline of record shops another time).

I got Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water because "Cecilia" was playing in my head about as many times as it had been spinning on WABC. I also loved the cover photo; thought the tall guy was cuter than the short one, but pretty sure they both had a lot to teach me. That same day my older sister got the Woodstock soundtrack.

Back at home we shared our finds. I was totally absorbed by Simon & Garfunkel's dramatic title track; learned about NYC and loneliness in " The Only Living Boy in New York" and discovered libel and slander in the catchy, "Keep the Customer Satisfied," concepts that would come in handy later. But my sister made the big grab, scoring a double album set replete with mysterious songs and beautiful, weird photographs. We were totally mesmerized by what we heard, saw, imagined. All these long-haired hippy grown-ups singing, dancing in peace and love in the mud. So many of the artists--then unknown to me--would become pivotal in my creative life. Arlo. Janis. Hendrix. CSN&Y. My sister and I danced around for hours transfixed in a pre-pubescent fugue state, a sort of gauzy musical reverie that can only be colored by a precocious child's view of the adult world.

And--as kids do--we played it over and over. And louder and louder, It was one loud-playing of the famous " Fish Cheer" that landed us in trouble. Our mom heard the counter-culture rally cry and quickly confiscated the album. And our passport to Woodstock Nation. The album was jailed in the dark recesses of Mom's back back closet where old clothes were stashed along with items deemed dangerous like Seduction a steamy parlor game Dad had bought Mom as a gag gift one anniversary; Mom didn't appreciate the gag and the game disappeared without ever being opened ( I know; I used to sneak in to check).

I was never privy to the negotiations, but months--maybe weeks later--my sister did wrangle Woodstock's return.But we never listened to the album together again. It would be another four or five years before I ever saw the film-- on Channel 13-- one New Year's Eve.By then--already immersed in adolescence--I had transitioned from AM Top 40 to FM AOR--primarily on WNEW. I was heavily exploring all sorts of grown-up artists from Dylan to Talking Heads. And thanks to a cadre of long-haired hippy high school teachers I had developed a keen interest in politics and the arts, and already started flirting with the idea of a career in radio or writing.

As fate would have it, I've had the chance to bump up against a few Woodstock legends, interviewing them on the radio or for magazine pieces. Richie Havens. Joan Baez. And Country Joe McDonald the man who so inspired and inadvertently shortened my first Woodstock experience. Woodstock even pops up in my fiction, usually in a passing way, with a secondary character recounting his/her memory. Frequently a romanticized, dreamy image of an era I never really lived through.

You know, Joni Mitchell, who penned the famed Festival's anthem never made it to Woodstock either. But It seems she was there. In a way, I guess I was, too.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.