Let’s Do Something Wild and Crazy

ZZ Top Eliminator at the Rock and Roll Hall of...

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Four years ago, Grandma Peggy and I wintered in the Phoenix area. We wanted to do something wild and crazy to make us feel young again. The following story is a letter I wrote to our  kids about the adventure. I hope it gives you a giggle. We still talk about it.

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ZZ TOP Concert 18 April 2007

I have definitely learned the lesson that I can’t relive my youth. In my quest to be young again I tried an experiment in the name of entertainment. When Peggy and I arrived in Arizona in January, I read an ad for a concert to be held in April. I thought to myself that I’d like to go to hear this group. Over the years, I listened to some of their music and thought it was cool. The selections that I heard were limited to those played by popular disc jockeys of the day. No doubt the music selections rang true with many people, which is why they played them. I was also enamored by their album jacket photos of a yellow 34 Ford roadster. The group is ZZ Top.

Last Wednesday, as I read the morning newspaper, I came across the same ad. I asked Peggy, if she would like to go to a concert tonight. Being a dutiful wife, she responded “sure.” She never even asked what the event was about. Within a couple of hours, I had tickets for the main floor. Wow, I got main floor tickets to one of my favorite groups. How lucky can one get?

We drove to the Dodge Theater in downtown Phoenix using the GPS to guide us. The computer took us right to the front door. Not only that, there was a parking garage immediately across the street. “This was meant to be,” I thought.

The tickets were at the will call window, and there was no line because we were an hour early. I looked around to survey the crowd. Not too many young people, I thought. I guess I’ve known this group longer than I remember. Anyway, Peggy and I were not the oldest people waiting to get in. There was a very distinguished looking white haired and wrinkled lady ahead of us. She was with her kids, who also had white hair.

We grabbed a sandwich from the concession stand inside. There were several beer stands set up across the lobby. Strange, I thought, selling beer at a concert in downtown Phoenix.

We found our seats and waited for the concert to begin. Peggy was dressed smartly, in a white blouse under a black jacket, and plaid slacks. I wore my best slacks and carried my sport coat. Since the theater was still relatively empty, I wore the jacket to fend off the cold breeze falling on us from the aircon. It turned out to be the only sport coat in the theater. Most of the other attendees wore tee shirts and shorts.

The theater filled slowly. “This group must not be popular anymore, they don’t appear to be sold out,” I told Peg. The lights dimmed, and four very young men appeared, dressed in tee shirts without sleeves. Heavy chains with loads of keys hung from their waists. They wore blue jeans with holes at the knees, and across the seat. The pants looked as though they would fall off at any moment. Perhaps they were pinned to the guitars hanging from their shoulders. Their hair was long and dirty looking, certainly unkempt. Disgusting tattoos covered their arms. This was the warm up band. They called themselves BBB, which stood for Bang, Bang, Bang, or Bang, Bang, Boys. (Be careful when you search for them by those names, some very strange sites turn up.)

The concert began to a crowd that was about fifty percent of capacity. My trained ear told me that the drummer was the most talented musician on the dais. The three guitarists were seemingly into their music. Expressions of ecstasy or pain, I couldn’t tell the difference, grimaced on their faces. The bass notes pushed into our chests with the volume. The high notes pierced our ears, causing my normal tinitus to amplify. The skinniest of the three guitarists also shouted lyrics into the microphone. None of the words were intelligible, or at least I couldn’t make out any of it because my ears were ringing so loudly. As the number of songs progressed, more and more people continued to trickle in to fill the seats around us. They must be experienced concertgoers, I thought to myself. They knew this awful group would play first.

I often told myself that I can live through 24 hours of anything life throws at me, but this group was changing my mind. I lost count at six numbers. The songs sounded somewhat different, but the same. It was just organized noise. After thirty minutes of this torture, the group finally left the stage to some weak applause. What a relief, we will enjoy the quiet of an intermission. Wrong, the ringing in my ears was deafening.

Peggy looked me in the eye and said, “If being here doesn’t prove that I love you, nothing does.”

“It will be better when the real group comes on,” I said.

“I hope so,” she replied.

A youngish couple in their forties sat in front of us. Their son, about twelve, was with his friend. They had a typical Yuppie appearance. The kid fascinated me.  I had the greatest urge to slap him in the head. He wore a baseball hat with a flat bill over his left ear. Why would a nice young white kid want to look like a rapper? The two boys had cell phones. The son’s flipped open to reveal a keypad for text messaging. He was texting as we sat waiting for the concert to begin. When he closed the phone, it opened a second way to reveal a regular cell phone. His father makes entirely too much money, I thought to myself. He just spent two hundred and fifty dollars to attend this concert with his family. He gives his twelve year old son a three hundred dollar phone, and he lets him dress like s _ _ t.

ZZ Top came on stage with a theatrical flair. “Much better,” I said to myself. The three of them dressed in sequined sport coats, (I guess I wasn’t the only one.) A giant light curtain behind them changed colors as they played. The drums were lit up with the band’s logo. The microphone stands were decorated with glittery stuff, the crowd stood up and cheered. Peggy and I remained seated. Two banks of giant speakers flanked the players on stage. Ten-foot high bass speakers hung from each side. Large floodlights aimed at the audience, flashed on and off, and blinded us. (Nothing like wrecking the eyes as well as the ears for enjoyment.) I finally stood up from my sixty-dollar seat to see the spectacle. Peg remained sitting. She was the only one who did (maybe it hurt her ears less to do so.) The sounds reverberated into my chest so I could feel the pulses pressing into my heart. The ringing in my ears increased in volume with the guitars. I expected the crowd to sit down, it didn’t. Why would all these morons pay sixty bucks for a seat they don’t use, I asked myself?

During the opening act, both Peggy and I had empty seats next to us. As the people began to come in those seats filled up too. First, a very large young lady plopped into the seat next to Peggy. The armrest thrust sideways into Peggy’s side as she sat down. I laughed, then two guys the size of a mountain squeezed by us to fill the seats next to me. The armrest on my side moved toward me. The man spilled over his seat into mine. He folded his arms on his chest to keep them from crushing me.

The girl next to Peggy had a boy friend in the seat behind her. They weren’t lucky enough to get seats side by side. The girl twisted sideways to talk to him.  As she did, her jeans stressed downward revealing the crease of her butt to Peggy just short of a moon. When the band came on stage, the crowd stood up. The boyfriend eased his way forward to stand next to his girlfriend. That put him into the aisle. He felt conspicuous in the aisle so he kept pushing her sideways. Eventually, Peggy was looking directly into the ass of the girlfriend.

The ZZ Top noise was just a tad better organized than the Bang Bang Boys, but it was just as loud. The song lyrics were still unintelligible, and the standing crowd was getting rowdier. The two guys next to me politely asked to pass by to exit. Thank God, I thought, at least I lasted longer then they did.  A few minutes later they returned holding beers the size of a bucket, only to squeeze past us again.

All the while, ZZ Top did not play a single song that I recognized. I looked at my watch. We had survived forty minutes. I leaned down and told Peggy to stand up, because in five minutes we would quietly go for a beer.  In thirty seconds she asked if the five minutes were up yet.

My ears are still ringing. I have chalked it up to “been there, done that,” and now I’ll move on to the next “Wild and Crazy Thing.”

Luv,

Grumpa Joe

Angel Friend

In another lifetime I had an angel friend. She was by my side everywhere I went. Her willowy white wings shielded me from harm. She connected me to God and kept me straight. In the evening light she shone so bright.  For just a few moments I spied her transfiguration. Oh how I wish she were still my angel friend. I need her more now than before, but she has retired to heaven with my love.

THE FLU SUCKS

Tamiflu medicine pill by a Swiss company Roche...

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Get a flu shot. That is the recommendation for old guys every year. I got mine in September, and guess what? I got the flu on New Year’s eve.  I spent the week chiding Grandma Peggy for not having her shot this year. She got a real serious dose of some virus which put her into misery. So much so, that she let me take her to see a doctor. He spent 5 minutes assessing the situation, said “Yep you have the flu.” He handed her a complimentary squirt of bacterial gel as he fled the room. He wasn’t wasting any time getting out of harms way.

She started feeling lousy on Tuesday evening,  By Wednesday night she was miserable, and on Thursday, she felt like dying. That’s when she relented and agreed to see her doctor. All this time, I’m thinking “Thank GOD I got my flu shot.”

The following day, Friday,  was New Year’s eve. We had called off the party we planned, and were spending a quiet evening watching TV. By this time, the Tamiflu was working in Peggy’s favor, and she felt considerably better. Then the crap hit the fan. It started with sniffles and throat clearing. Then the nose started running like a faucet. The dripping was interrupted only by uncontrolled sneezes that came in fours, fives, and sixes.

So much for the flu shot.

It is now four days later, and I’m feeling a little better, but need a nap by the afternoon.

I guess I have to admit, that the flu shot did do some good, since my case was less virulent than Peggy’s, but crappy enough to spoil New Year’s Day.

Hug a Cactus

The winter doldrums have certainly set in. Grandma Peggy has the flu, the days are short, the weather is questionable, and I have the blahs. I don’t chose to have the blahs, they just come. When I get this way, I look at my cactus collection. It is not a huge collection, but I’m willing to bet that it is the largest one in Frankfort.

Why do I look at the cactus? For one thing, they are beautiful plants. How can a spiny thing like a stag horn cactus be beautiful? I see all life as beautiful.  Even a blah day has a beauty about it. All I have to do is to switch my mindset to anticipation of a bright sunny day, and life is good. The cacti give me an outlet to vent my frustrations. At times, when I get upset with someone, I tell them to go hug a cactus, and if I get very upset I’ll tell them to go kiss a cactus.

Cacti grow in extremely harsh environments and they are hardy survivors. They live without water for months, sometimes years. A cactus can withstand high temperatures, and suppress predation with their spines. Like all living things, they do succumb.

My cacti are not treated to a life of high temperatures, but do get treated harshly. In the winter, I bring them indoors and place them in a low light environment. Occasionally, I sprinkle them with a few drops of water.  When the temperature outside is above freezing, I move them into the garden.  I place them strategically between the perennials to add interest, and confusion. How confusion? Have you ever walked a perennial garden in the Mid-West to spot a desert plant nestled among the traditional plant life?

During the summer, my cacti are stressed, not by the heat but by the large amount of water they get. In the desert, light, heat, and water add up to procreation by  flowering. Nature compensates the gross stems and the spiny foliage with brilliant beautiful flowers. I have only had luck with one of my plants. It flowers every year, but the others have not. Obviously, my basement and yard do not yield the correct conditions to promote flowering. That is one problem to challenge the blahs.  I look forward to learning what it takes to get them to flower as beautiful as they do in the desert.

Here are some of my critters, and some real desert cactus in bloom.

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Thank You Microsoft

QWERTY keyboard, on 2007 Sony Vaio laptop comp...

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Well, the last twenty four hours have been pure delight. I don’t know what made me do it, but I chose to update my pc with the latest Microsoft security updates. It has been several weeks since I last did it. There were forty nine of them to download. I consciously chose to do it.

Immediately after the download, the keyboard began skipping letters. I type fairly fast and my thoughts became even more gibberish than they normally are. What normally took a few seconds to type now took several minutes because of all the corrections that I had to make. Then there were corrections to make on the corrections.

I spent six hours searching for solutions. Have you ever tryied searching with a skipping keyboard?  One solution was to restore the software to a point before this event. I did. The keyboard stopped functioning. After much more fiddling, I got the keys to respond the way they did before. At least they worked sometimes.

I decided to seek serious help. I called Microsoft Support fully intending to pay for the fix. I explained the call to a rather rude service attendent and was told to call Dell because this was a hardware problem. I tried to use some logic with the technician and she cut me off.

My first call to Dell was with their hardware expert. I agreed to the charges and proceeded to diagnose the keyboard problem. It seems obvious now, but all he did was check if the keys functioned while the machine was in safe mode. They did, except when I typed very fast. The technician declared that thie keyboard needed replacement. I presnted my argument that a download of updates from Microsoft surely wouldn’t cause the keyboard to fail. What would the odds be of that coincidence occurring?  I argued thaat the updates had most likely corrupted some drivers and caused the problem. He finally admitted that he was only qualified to handle hardware. He asked if I wanted to be transferred to a software tech. I did.

The software guy started by quoting the cost of his services. It would be $70 on top of the $59 dollars I paid for the hardware check. I agreed. It was still a bargain compared to spending untold hours by myself lookiing for the needle in the haystack.

The call began a six hour adventure with a nice young man who worked with me to correct the problem. After he satisfied himself that the keyboard fuctioned well he tried restoring to a previous point with out luck.

The computer had to be reformated to the factory specifications.

The job is not finished yet, because I have to reload data from back-ups. My e-mail address list is gone, yet to be found, and my drive to do anything on the machine is waning.

Woe is me for becomming addicted to this infernal machine.

This too shall pass.

An Apple today keeps Microsoft away.

Like My Drunken Uncle Mike

 

     This will sound like I am trying to make my friends and readers feel bad, but yesterday it was cloudy, and cool (fifty-nine degrees) in the desert. The skies threatened rain, blocked the warmth of the sun, and promoted depression. To offset the mood, Peggy and I went to the show. Why waste a cloudy day? There are seven movies on our “to see,” list. We have seen three of them already. It was my turn to pick, and I chose to see Crazy Heart, with Jeff Bridges. I was not disappointed. The drama was there. The actors were the characters. The story, although fiction, was so real it seemed to be a true story.

     I would have liked more country music but it would have detracted. The film left me thirsting for more.  I heard undertones of Waylon Jennings in some places, and Willie Nelson in others.  Jeff Bridges actually sang some of the songs and did a credible job. He sounded like a broken down fifty-seven year old country western singer. It was exactly his part in the film.

     The main character Bad Blake is an alcoholic. Bridges plays the part so well, that it evoked the memory of my alcoholic Uncle Mike; except that my Uncle was a stupid drunk. He became a complete ass when drunk out of his mind. Bridges’ character was semi-functional, and only partly stupid. Jeff Bridges was very accurate in his portrayal. We drove home with me telling Peggy stories about Uncle Mike’s toots.

     White haired seniors filled Arrowhead 18-Theater to capacity for the 2:20 p.m. showing.  At the end, everyone remained. The movie ended, but we wanted to see more. We wanted the story to continue. Bad Blake is a character that deserves another chapter, and the writer Scott Cooper could easily write a sequel that would be just as compelling as the first.

     Jeff Bridges, co-star Maggie Gyllenhaal, and the song The Weary Kind  have been nominated for Academy Awards.  All of them have my vote; they are that good.

Lyrics to The Weary Kind by Ryan Bingham

Your heart’s on the loose
You rolled them seven’s with nothing lose
And this ain’t no place for the weary kind

You called all your shots
Shooting 8 ball at the corner truck stop
Somehow this don’t feel like home anymore

And this ain’t no place for the weary kind
And this ain’t no place to lose your mind
And this ain’t no place to fall behind
Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try

Your body aches
Playing your guitar and sweating out the hate
The days and the nights all feel the same

Whiskey has been a thorn in your side
and it doesn’t forget
the highway that calls for your heart inside

And this ain’t no place for the weary kind
And this ain’t no place to lose your mind
And this ain’t no place to fall behind
Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try

Your lovers won’t kiss
It’s too damn far from your fingertips
You are the man that ruined her world

Your heart’s on the loose
You rolled them seven’s with nothing lose
And this ain’t no place for the weary kind

GRAMPA JIM’S LAST DAY

Grumpa Joe as a Toddler

Grampa Wigh died with a cigarette burning in his hand.  The ash was nearly one inch long.  He was discovered by a friend.  The friend stopped by to pick him up, a daily routine.  They would drive the distance to Fish Corners for a beer.  Grampa would stay at the tavern all evening, nursing his one beer and smoking his Camel cigarettes.  He would spend the time socializing with the many people who came to Fish Corners for gas or groceries, or for a social outlet.

When the friend, Mr. Toth, didn’t get a response from his toot, he decided to check on Jim.  Jim was just inside the door on the daybed.  The cigarette was still burning between his fingers.  He looked asleep.  He was dead.  It was 1958 and I was at the University of Illinois in my first semester after transferring from St. Joe College.

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