The Realities Of Driving Drunk

I derive no pleasure in providing you this video. But make your children and loved ones watch it before New Year's Eve. So we'll all have a Happy New Year...

Something more pleasant tomorrow.


The Best Eight Minutes Of Christmas

Although the boys are (physically) grown and Santa bypasses The Dog Pound now, (but there are gifts!) there are still many Christmas traditions our family keeps. Many are video and food related--I guess that's not unusual.

We just have to re-visit Ralphie in A Christmas Story. It's not Christmas without sausage balls and some awesome Kringle. And there's my cottage bacon--a new tradition. It's "mandatory" that all four of us are present for choosing and decorating the tree. And, each year's Christmas tree is officially "the most beautiful Christmas tree we've ever had."

There are many others, and I'm sure there are many in your family. Yet the one that always stands out for me is the last thing we do on Christmas Eve before turning in. We watch a couple of short videos. Old videos that I remember from my youth. We found them over time from catalogues and even eBay.

The Wife loves the I Love Lucy Christmas Episode. And there's this surrealistic Santa Meets The Fairy Snow Queen deal that as children the boys thought was cool. Santa seemed so...so magical. Yeah, right. That one is so over the top from the '50s that I'd swear it was produced by the California porn trade on a slow day. Now, at 19 and 21 the boys agree. Now we watch it for a laugh. This may be the worst 14 minutes of Christmas.

And then, there is the old 1936 cartoon Christmas Comes But Once A Year. It's on that Rudolph VHS you see in the picture that the puppies have feasted on at some point. This is the last thing we watch before bed. It brings us back to the world's realities. It reminds us how blessed we are. It reminds me that I am a Lucky Dog.

To me, watching Christmas Comes But Once A Year is the best eight minutes of Christmas. Watch, and let me know what you think.

As Tiny Tim said, "God bless us, every one."


Dear Santa...

Oh, sir...I know you are not responsible for my decision to turn in the BMW at lease end and buy two new Hondas. An Accord for The Wife and a CR-V for me. Yes, it's true that I am getting used to the change. I do like sitting up high and the CR-V is easier for an old geezer to enter and exit (I'm old physically, of course...in my heart and mind I'm still rockin').

The Dog's CR-V
An Urban Titanium 4WD unit
Nick, I have had to make some adjustments, of course; the most dramatic being the recalibration of when and when not to pull out on to Garrett Road from our residential street. Pulling out on Garrett Road during morning rush hour is a challenge and possibly deadly adventure even utilizing a twin turbo for velocity. Traffic at 60 mph in a 45 zone is a bitch. Especially when powered by a Honda lawnmower engine. That first time was dramatic!
Anyway Santa, it's not your problem but once everyone else is taken care of, if you've a mind, you certainly can surprise my ass off by plunking down one of the fine automotive specimens below in the driveway on Christmas. I swear I'll give the Accord to charity if you do. To be clear, sir: the Accord. The Wife really wants the CR-V.

In a perfect world the Porsche would be a first choice. And I'm diggin' the two door Bimmer at the bottom. Or thatM3... And really, now that I think of it, I doubt I could get my butt in the Lotus.  But hey, beggars can't be choosers. And I like surprises, so I'm leaving the choice in your good hands.

Have a good trip, St. Dude. And one more thing: if this drivel doesn't compel you to act extravagantly on my behalf, a good set of all weather mats for the CR-V would be nice. In black, please.

I'd never have to start the thing to feel really, really good.

Like a beautiful Italian woman,
the back side of the Maserati looks awesome.

Very likely the Lotus is butt-challenged
and low on head room...
But oh, that stilletto shape!

A great super car, but that snout...

A Mercedes for when I'm takin'
my posse out to
The Italian Olive Garden...

...and this Kraut Kruiser
for taking The Wife
to Magnolia Grill




My youngest son is searching for his place in life, commiserating on a life's work that allows for more than a little adventure, physical stimulus and enough embedded machismo to bleed off his excess testosterone, which I believe can be a significant hazard in a young man's life. 

Swirling around in his head are such endeavors as UFC fighter, repo man (nights) and process server (days) and Humboldt County farmer. Or head shop owner. Personally, I think he should go to acting school and become his generation's Steve McQueen.

In many ways I admire his "my way or the highway" mentality, while praying that he comes to terms with the possible outcomes of what I call his uberspunk.  If I was his 20-something Best Bud I would share this video with him. But I'm not, so he will never see it.

God, I love that boy...


Inner Peace: It's Easy

I am passing this advice on to you because it definitely works, and we could all use a little more calmness in our lives, especially at Christmas.
By following this simple advice heard recently on the Dr. Phil show, you too can find inner peace. Dr Phil proclaimed, "The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you have started and have never finished." 

So, I looked around my house this morning before the family awoke to inventory all the things I've started and hadn't finished, thinking the inner peace would serve me well later today when I go on my Christmas shopping expedition.

After a thourough inventory of "The Unfinished", I finished off a bottle of White Zinfandel, a bottle Tequila, a package of Oreos, the remainder of my old Prozac prescription, the rest of the cheesecake we made Saturday, and some Doritos. Also, I cooked up and ate the opened bacon in the fridge, chasing it with the half bottle of Rebel Yell bourbon I found hiding behind the wine bottles in the bar. I wondered what happened to that Yell.

You have no idea how freaking good I feel right now. Pass this on to those who you think might be in need of inner peace.


The General And The King (And a Christmas Lesson)

I am very remiss for not noting the deaths of two very talented artists earlier in the year. Great musicians are passing faster than I can write about them.

Yet, based on my remembering something Solomon Burke said a long time ago, perhaps this is when this appreciation is meant to be posted. Now, closer to Christmas.

On October 10th Solomon Burke, self-proclaimed King of Soul, died in Amsterdam at 70 of natural causes. He was there to perform.

On October 13th Norman "General" Johnson passed away at his home at the age of 69. He had been fighting lung cancer. The General may be unknown to some of you, even though he wrote and performed many well known and revered rock/soul classics. In the US south he was--and is-- a music icon. He led the beach music group The Showmen, well known for songs such as "39-21-40 Shape" (mistakenly printed as "39-21-46" on the 45 label) and many others including as great a seminal anthem to rock & roll as ever recorded: "It Will Stand". More recently (and for decades) the General fronted The Chairmen of the Board.

These deaths touch me for very personal reasons. As a drummer in the soul and beach music group The Four Winds & Band during the late '60s, I've had the pleasure and honor to perform with both men.

The Showmen were great to back up. Back then beach headliners would often not travel with their own bands to save on expenses. The venue would bring in a backup band who would also play sets before and after the headliner's set. All the good regional bands knew the music and a rehearsal wasn't even needed. Just a run through of some behind the back hand signals the General would flash to direct us, like a third base baseball coach.

One night performing with them stands out. We were playing The Jokers Three in Raleigh. A big crowd. I was just a kid, at 17 not even legally old enough to be in the building. Thinking back on it, I may have been the only one on stage not high on something (I learned some great life lessons being "on the road").

The General was in a particularly good mood and there was lots of banter between songs. At one point after a song he stepped closer to me and it scared me to death, thinking he would tell me to tighten it up. Thankfully, instead he said "You got a fast right foot, kid. You're good..." I just about fell of my stool. My signature was "doubling up" on the bass drum. Don't ask. It's complicated. Sort of, anyway.

That was also the night our sax player, more "happy" than usual after the gig, became engrossed with the big, furiously spinning fan on the side of the stage. It was a beautiful rainbow fan, he said, just before sticking his left index finger through the grid, resulting in...well, you don't want to know. It was messy. And saxophone-playing limiting in the future. As I said, I learned some good life lessons travelling with that bunch.



You take some music, music
Sweet flowin' music
Some movin' and groovin'
Rock and roll will stand

Take some heart beats drum beats
Finger poppin' and stompin' feet
Little dances that look so neat
You see why it will stand

Some folks don't understand it
That's why they don't demand it
They're out tryin' to ruin
Forgive them for they know not what they're doin'

Don't nick-name it
You might as well claim it
It swept this whole wide land
Rock and roll forever will stand

Hear those sax blowin'
Sharp as lightnin'
Hear those drums beatin'
Loud as thunder

Some folks don't understand it
That's why they don't demand it
They're out tryin' to ruin
Forgive them for they know not what they're doin'

Don't you nick-name it
You might as well claim it
It will be here for ever and ever
Ain't gonna fade
Never no never

It swept this whole wide land
Sinking deep in the heart of man
Come on boy join our clan
Come on boy take my hand
Come on boy be a man
'Cause rock and roll will stand

Let's do it all over again
I feel good let's do it again
It'll be here for ever and ever
Ain't gonna fade
Never, no never...

My one experience with Solomon Burke was much more farcical. We were the band on the one hour Solomon Burke Christmas Special produced for airing on some very dinky UHF TV station in Greensboro. Low. Budget. I don't really remember, but I think this was a paid-by-Burke deal, a religious program, really. Ol' Solomon was preaching back then, too.
But on to the farcical. Mr. Burke was a big star to me and I was mightily impressed when told about the gig. Until the gig played out, anyway. There would be some preachin' and then a little music. And unlike backing up The Showmen, we did not know the music so well. It was ugly. To say the least (but with great respect for his talent) Solomon was not in his element as a TV show preacher/host.

There was a stage for the band, a podium for The King's preaching, a fake Christmas tree a little skimpy on the ornaments, lots of bare concrete wall and a cardboard sign hawking the one sponsor Burke found for the production. It was a local butcher shop (who I'm sure created the sign as it was professionally done in the grocery store motif).

Allow me to cut to the chase: The music was awful because we only had about thirty minutes to rehearse. The preaching was of the Primitive Baptist style. When it came time for the butcher shop commercial, Solomon was so animated ("Good meat, I tell you!") that he kept slapping the masking-taped-to-the-wall sign until it fell off. That startled The King so much that he fell back into the fake Christmas tree, knocking it and him to the ground. The cameras--I mean the camera--was rolling. There were no "cut!" do-overs in this production.

He rallied gallantly, gently rising and reminding anyone who might ever watch (ha!) that it wasn't about him, or the sign or the fallen tree. "It's about Christ the King, our Saviour!" he rejoiced. And then all was good. Solomon got an audible "Amen" from the camera man. The next song sounded so much sweeter.

It was a crazy day. Not one of The King's finest. That day takes nothing away from his great talent, and I am proud to be able to say I played with The King--the great Solomon Burke, however unorthodox the event.

Rock & Roll. It Will Stand. Can I Get An Amen...
R.I.P. General Johnson and Solomon Burke


The Mother Of All Arguments, At Christmas No Less

The Wife's college supper club Christmas party was over the weekend. It's a good group and we enjoy the event. Both sexes have one of those gift exchanges where you can "steal" someone else's gift or choose from the unopened ones. It's great fun unless your gift is the one that keeps getting handed over for a "better" one. I usually gift some eclectic CD and pass on the cigars, which finally are loosing favor as a gift to bring.

The event does bring back some bad memories. In fact, the Christmas party opens anew each year a "wound" that I will never let The Wife forget. As you know if you frequent this blog(and thank you for that!) I am a huge fan of the late Warren Zevon. If you are familiar with only his hit Werewolves of London you are depriving yourself of some wonderfully written and executed Americana rock music and many a touching ballad.

Warren Zevon was a true song smith and penned such well know hits as Carmelita, Hasten Down the Wind, Poor, Poor Pitiful Me and the lesser known Lawyers, Guns and Money (my favorite) whi
ch begins....

"I went home with the waitress, like I always do
How was I to know she was with the Russians, too

"I was gambling in Havana,
And I took a little risk
Send Lawyers, Guns and Money
Dad, get me out of this"

The song, and specifically those last two lines are my cell ring tone and it's a hoot when it goes off around people, who seem to enjoy it. It is not a hoot, however, when the phone goes off while meeting with a prospective older client with no sense of humor, as once happened. Oh, well. It's not so great when it goes off in traffic court, either. The judge was the only one not amused. I pleaded guilty, which I had not intended to do.

Several years ago Warren came to Chapel Hill's Cat's Cradle for a solo gig. I didn't know about it. Somehow I missed it even though I often troll the Internet sites of the local music halls looking for who's coming to town. She--The Wife-- did know about it, as she's fond of reading The Independent cover to cover.

But she didn't tell me. Because the supper club Christmas party was that same December Saturday night.

As someone who also likes to read The Independent (but unfortunately, not on a timely basis in this case) I saw the ad the following Tuesday.

"Damn!", I hollered, so belligerently that the beer can flew right off the side table as I jumped up.

"What's the matter, Honey!?" She's so sweet...

"I missed Zevon! He was at the Cradle!"

Silence on the other end. My ESP kicked in and I immediately knew...she knew.

"Did you know?"


"You Knew!"

She walked in to the den and just stood there, head down but with a furtive look toward me. And, like the father accusing the mother in the great movie A Christmas Story of purposefully breaking the infamous leg lamp, I quietly yet angrily muttered "You...knew!"

"I knew you wouldn't go to the supper club party if I told you. It was on the same night..."

And then ensued the Mother of All Arguments. I slept on the couch three nights, barely spoke to her and when we passed as we made our way around the house I continued to mutter "You...knew."

The anger passed, of course. But I mark that episode as our worst argument ever in 30 years of marriage. I will never let her forget that. I know; I should let it go. I don't bring it up often but the music in the car on the way to the supper club Christmas party is and will always be Warren Zevon's Greatest Hits.