A random look at the life and times of Jim Rising recovering radio addict and newspaper columnist.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Brooks and Dunn Redux

“You can leave your hat on”-Randy Newman

I went to see the Brooks and Dunn show up at Montage. In fact I wrote a review of it that appeared in this fine publication. Here’s the stuff that didn’t fit into that review. In the row in front of us a young lady spent at least ten minutes of each hour applying a myriad of cosmetics. I mean she painted enough stuff on her face that Marcel Marceu would have been envious. Call me old fashioned but wasn’t that why God invented rest rooms? In the row behind us an older woman ignored everyone and read a paperback novel. The seats where we were at cost more than $60. I guess it must be me but if she wanted to read, the library or her couch would have been much more cost effective. But the highlight of my people watching was the young woman directly in front of us. Someone high up in Toyota marketing came up with the idea that big red cowboy hats should be given away at the show. When I say big I mean to say BIG. These huge foam creations had to be at least two feet high and three feet in circumference. Most of the concert goers I saw that had scored the free hats held them in their laps. Not so the person in front of us. She kept hers on all night. At times we could see the stage. Most of the time we saw that damn red hat. Somebody beside us was trying to take pictures. I glanced over at the digital display and all I saw was red hat. Toyota owes us at the very least an apology. But more about “hat girl.” WARNING: MATURE CONTENT/HORRIFYING MENTAL IMAGE THAT WILL REMAIN IN YOUR BRAIN FOREVER COMING UP. This young lady was, how shall I put this politely? A little “Rubenesque”. No, that’s not fair to Peter Paul Rubens and his voluptuous art. This girl was just plain hefty. A Hefty Heifer at a country hoedown, yee haw! She had on a pair of low rise jeans which begs a whole bunch of questions best left unanswered. But here’s the scary part. When she bent over (and she did so a few times) she showed us her thong underwear. Now I think thong underwear is sexy on a woman. But it probably should be a woman who weighs less than I do. And this thong was so small it could have been a g-string with a little more material. And the thought occurred to me. How much of her outsize female plumbing could that wisp of material possibly cover? Get the image? Yikes! Or then again I could be wrong.

Brooks and Dunn

6424 cowboys and cowgirls went to Cowboy Town Sunday night at the Toyota Pavilion and it was a good journey. The Brooks and Dunn show drove into town, circled the wagons and showed off what 18 years of performing together can do. It was smooth and polished and if the song list was a little bit predictable the enthusiasm of the small crowd made up for it. Hitting the super sophisticated stage just before 9pm the duo roared into the title track from their new release “Cowboy Town” and kept up a fast pace for the next 75 minutes. 3 background singers and a crackerjack 7 piece band put 12 people on the stage which should be counted as a 13th performer, with it’s monolithic backdrop video screens showing dazzling animations and crowd shots. This is not your Grandfathers country music show so maybe the relentless promotions of Toyota Tundra trucks can be forgiven. Costs a lot to put on this sort of spectacle. Just before the show started a short, comical video featured both performers with the Toyota truck and a variation of the old Farmer’s Daughter joke. During the show both performers seemed to have a penchant for throwing things at the audience. Kix Brooks started it with a handheld air cannon booting out tightly wrapped t-shirt bombs during the third song “Rock My world”. Later on Ronnie Dunn would throw out drumstick after drumstick in between licks on a cowbell during “Mama don’t get dressed up for nothing.” Both tossed out buckets of guitar picks but the biggest shots fired at the crowd came during the stirring rendition of “Only in America.” Its no surprise to see a country performer wrap themselves in the red white and blue but Brooks and Dunn wrapped the first 50 rows with patriotic bunting courtesy of a dozen air cannons. The four servicemen in uniform standing at attention at the front of the stage was a nice touch as well.
Halfway through the show the pair sat on stools and did a short semi-acoustic set. It was just before the Roger Miller cover “Husbands and Wives” that Dunn remarked on 18 years of Brooks and Dunn shows. Few show biz partnerships have lasted as long or as well as this pair. Unlike Simon and Garfunkel both Brooks and Dunn bring something to the marriage. Few voices in country music and maybe in pop music period are as smooth and rich as Ronnie Dunn’s and what Kix Brooks lacks in vocal talent is made up for with his high energy stage presence and effortless rapport with the audience. Pulling an obviously thrilled young lady from the crowd he hugged her and spun her around lifting her feet from the stage. She’s probably still dizzy. The show concluded with an up-tempo “My Maria” which had the crowd on its feet including the senior citizen who leaped from her seat behind me and danced like a 16 year old. The encore brought “Brand New Man” and the expected “Boot Scooting Boogie.” James Otto and Randy Atkins opened the show.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Getting a little punchy

I had a sleepless night and the day wasn’t going according to plan so I was already on edge when the goof backed into the long suffering wife’s car.
Let me back up here. For years while I toiled at my former so called career I would have sleepless nights and learned to deal. But it’s been months since I tossed and turned like the other night. So that morning my nerves were already jangled. To add insult to injury I had put myself on a strict diet the week before and we all know what that does to your outlook on life. So this Saturday morning while we made the rounds of yard sales I was in a foul, grey mood to say the least. Part of the problem is the mysterious issue of the “ghost sales.” That’s what we call the ones that are advertised in the paper but don’t happen. You find the house per the classified but no sale. What gives? Why bother? The only thing we can figure is that they are in cahoots with big oil and want us to waste gas. This particular morning we had already not found three ghost sales. I was annoyed when we parked behind a Jeep Cherokee at our first sale of the day. But I really do enjoy going to yard sales. Finding an occasional bargain makes it worthwhile and you are always meeting interesting folks. It’s cheap entertainment and something to do on a weekend morning. I nodded hello at a man who was just leaving and started to scan the items on tables in the front yard. I don’t know why but I happened to glance over and watched in horror as the Jeep started to back into our car. Not just any car. My WIFE’S car, which she lavishes care on. “Wait hold it STOP” I yelled but the goof plowed into the nose of the car with a loud crunch. I ran in front of the jeep yelling “Don’t you drive off!” The guy got out and went over with me to inspect the damage. As we bent over he said to me “I wasn’t going to leave.” I looked at him and could feel the rage boil up in me. “How the hell would I know that?” I asked. “You were stupid enough to back into my car!” “Well you were right on my bumper, I couldn’t see you.” Somewhere there is a man in Jeep Cherokee who has a guardian angel. It’s the only explanation I have for why I didn’t flatten his nose like he tried to do to the wife’s car. Or then again I could be wrong.

Are you a Turtle?

The car flashed it’s brights at me as we passed in the early morning hours. In most cases this means there is a policeman waiting to see if you are speeding but on dark country roads in pre-dawn hours it also means there is a deer or three waiting to make the body shop happy. I was on my way to the gym. Even though my shape most closely resembles an egg I do spend a lot of time huffing and puffing and sweating to keep myself from becoming as large as the Hindenburg dirigible. Mixed results there but I get an “A” for effort. I rounded a corner and saw what the other car was alerting me to.
Let me stop here and say I will brake for almost any animal in the road. I have turned my car nearly sideways trying to avoid a chipmunk and I don’t even want to tell you how many times I have locked up my brakes trying not to hit Bambi and his extended family. So when I saw something in the road I swerved and stopped a few feet ahead of it. I put the four way’s on and hopped out to get a closer look. As I thought it was a platter sized turtle halfway across the road. I have dealt with this sort of thing before. Usually you can pick them up near the back of the shell and deposit them close to water and all is well. So I grabbed him and began to walk to the side of the road. The Huntsville reservoir was in view, in the opposite direction from his travels. Mr. Turtle was having none of it and damn if he didn’t almost get my fingers in his jaws. Later I read with some interest that a large adult snapper can easily bite off a finger or toe and some snappers can -- and will -- stretch their necks halfway back across their own shell to bite. He moved so quickly and forcefully that I had trouble hanging on to him. I returned him gently to the road. Back at the car I found a long wooden handled ice scraper and used this to urge him back towards the water. He turned and hissed and chomped on the scraper. And would NOT let go. I looked at this refuge from Jurasic Park. He held on to my scraper. So I pulled him and the scraper as far as could off the road and pointed him towards the H20. When I made the return trip 90 minutes later I didn’t see him or my scraper so he proably made it. Or then again I could be wrong.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The first day at the Osterhout library book sale is not for the faint of heart. As the long suffering wife and I stood in line waiting for the chance to go in the tent I looked around at our “competition.” These are the bookworms, the students of literature, the bibliomaniacs of Northeastern Pa. I can say without fear of being corrected that this is a most unique bunch. I claim membership. When the church bells chime 9:30 and not one second before the mad dash to the tables loaded with all sorts of books begins. Piles of fiction, non fiction, reference and cooking books. Stacks of children’s books and trashy paperback novels. It’s elbows and buttocks flying as the race to a cheap literary fix begins. Pity the poor person who pulls up lame or hesitates in the starting gate for they will for sure get trampled. This year the lead contender had in his arms at least ten large containers marked “For Post Office use only.” I looked on in admiration as he stopped by biographies and began shoveling books into his bins. But I only had a second as the crowd surge pushed me on to our destination. I found gold almost immediately and loaded myself up with three large cardboard boxes full. I couldn’t see over them so the inevitable happened. I bumped someone, as it turns out the wrong someone.
“OOOOOOH” squawked this person. “You really HIT me!” “I’m very sorry” I said although it was really only a tap. “OOOOOH that’s gonna leave a bruise” she said and gave me a parting gift, a kick in the shins. Like I said, you can’t back down at the Osterhout Library tent sale. On a sunny Saturday it was hotter than the hinges of Hell under the tent. You must not put your burden down though, as it will disappear faster than a wager on Big Brown to win. We gave up. Under a shade tree near the tent we went over our selections. Twice we were asked if those books in the boxes were taken. I think if you had human body parts in the boxes you would be questioned as well. An older gentleman made his way down the tent perimeter. A pork pie hat, a heavy jacket over a full wool suit coat over a dress shirt over an undershirt. It had to be 90 degrees in the tent. “Aren’t you a little hot? I wanted to know.
“Hot?” he said. “Hot?” and considered it for a moment. “Well it’s cold in Canada.” He replied and went into the tent. It’s not for the faint of heart.
But then again I could be wrong. The sale continues till this Saturday. Proceeds support the library.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Doc Martens? Forget it!

The Stroudsburg area school district has some ideas about how students should and should not dress for school. I’ve just finished reading the 7 page document that they hope to make into a reality and I’m a little concerned and a lot confused. Now it’s been more years then I would like to admit since I was in school. But I remember it like it was yesterday, mostly because my emotional age has never progressed much beyond high school. One thing that I can’t forget is how much I hated to be told what to do. Typical teenage rebel. But it didn’t hurt me and I think it helped me to question authority and I still do just that. Just because “they” say it, doesn’t make it so. Don’t forget I grew up in the “Nixon” years. But back to Stroudsburg. If the powers that be have their way and it looks like they will, the restrictions on how kids can dress will be, to put it mildly, rather limited. Stroudsburg is mandating not only pants, shirt type and color but the style of shoes (no Doc Martens!), color of shoelaces and how they are tied. If you go to school even if you have a shirt on you can’t wear anything but a plain t-shirt underneath. No colored contacts. You can wear a belt but it must be brown, black or tan. You can have small stud piercings but don’t even think about a barbell. Girls can wear “Hosiery” but it must be an approved color and style. I don’t think black fishnet stockings which I clearly recall girls in my class wearing, will make the cut. And hooded or thermal tops are not permitted. In fact that is mentioned twice. You get the idea. In short Stroudsburg school administrators want everyone to look the same. Why? In their words: To increase safety (Doc Martens are a hazard?) Promote school pride (Aren’t you proud you can wear a plain t-shirt kids?) and to decrease peer pressure associated with dress. It’s that last line that gets me. For the rest of their lives Stroudsburg kids might well look on somebody who dresses better, or worse or different than they do as being “Wrong” because that’s what they were taught at school. Conform or be punished! So if you peek into a Stroudsburg classroom you might have a little trouble telling the robots apart. But you will be able to tell who the teachers are. They have no dress code. I may have been asleep for much of my history class but I seem to remember a certain group of kids who all dressed the same. They all wore brown shirts. And that didn’t turn out so good did it? Or then again I could be wrong.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Flea Market Mania

Another flea market weekend.
It’s clear that the weather is getting to Northeast Pa.
Tempers are short, human kindness is disappearing and body odor is on the increase.
Yesterday as we swam thru the humidity I witnessed the following.
A fight broke out over a corkscrew. Or maybe it was a screwdriver. We aren’t sure. But a kid picked it up off the table at the flea market and (allegedly) tried to walk off with it. The table owner told him to return it, Dad stepped in and the end result was punches were thrown, shoves were shoved, ice packs on injured appendages, and the local Police squad had the donut run interrupted.
A woman’s sigh-Half my day is almost over she said.
A sign on a table next to a fan that read “every on tables is just 1 dollar (except fan).”
A man trying to put the moves on a table seller who wasn’t buying. Asked her if she knew who Hulk Hogan was because he was. Asked her for her phone number. No Sale.
A giant man with a considerable amount of stomach hanging out of his shirt, over his belt and producing a truly stupendous amount of body odor. I mean a stench that was causing flies to drop dead in his wake.
The award for most sack on a resold item? A local radio stations coloring book that they hand out for free being offered at .25 cents a pop.
And that noise you hear behind me. That’s my goofy neighbor. He now runs his chain saw 12 hours a day. I sure hope my other neighbors don’t do what I think about. I am not sure a chain saw enema is a good solution. But if it get’s any hotter and he keeps it up…

Written near the end of my radio life

“Aha” I cried. The long suffering wife lowered the newspaper and looked at me over the top. “ I have made a powerful connection and I am very pleased with myself” I think I said. “You’ve been drinking paint thinner again” said my wife and went back to her newspaper. Not one to be dismayed by such cavalier treatment of my brilliant connection I will explain it to you. I am often troubled between the gap in what people tell me they want in a radio station’s music play list and what they seem to really want. I am always told that what is hated most is the constant repetition of songs, over and over again. “We want variety” the people tell me. “We want radio stations to play more songs. Not just the same ones over and over again” they say. And yet when I look at the ratings for stations that repeat the same songs over and over again they consistently rank at the top of the heap. And the stations that offer more and different songs-they are voted off the island. So when I saw an article about restaurants and the problems they are having with portion sizes on their menus a little light went off in my head. After I put out the flames that the little light ignited from all the paint thinner fumes I read the rest of the article. It seems that some of the bigger chain restaurants, the Olive Gardens and the TGI Fridays of the world are trying to do their part in helping the nation’s health with offering smaller portion sizes. That’s a laudable effort considering that some entrees contain enough food and fat to feed a developing third world nation for a week on one plate. But like any business the restaurants aren’t doing it for any other reason then economic. They are hoping that smaller portion sizes which will of course lead to smaller checks will lead to more customers. But what the restaurants have found out is that even when consumers say they want smaller portions or healthier options they don’t order those choices. In other words what the customers say they want and what they really want are two different things. Sort of like that music on the radio thing. So given the choice between eating too much food that’s not good for you and listening to radio that plays the same songs over and over again, the choice that is made by Americans is the opposite of what they profess to want.
It’s enough to make me sit under the paint thinner barrel with a funnel in my mouth. Or then again I could be wrong.