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

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This Bud is for Euro.

Full disclosure-I don’t drink Bud. Years ago when I was first learning to enjoy a frosty cold gold beverage I was over served the “King of Beers.” Along with some other symptoms I had an acute gastric disturbance. The sort of thing my Father-in-law would call a “Fizzic.” Only it was much more violent and long lasting. Ever since that day a Bud makes me go number 2 in unacceptable amounts so I just steer clear. It’s no doubt me and not the brew because after all it is consumed in mass quantity and not all those beer drinkers are running to the can all the time, are they?
Any way the big news is that Bud has been bought by the Belgium brewer In-Bev for 52 Billion (with a B) bucks. Or Euros or whatever the Belgium people use for cash. It’s all good because In-Bev owns almost every beer in the world anyway, like Bass Ale, Beck’s, some Italian brew called Stella something and a whole lot more. Budweiser or rather its parent company Anheuser-Busch also owns a bunch of brews including one right here in good old Pennsylvania, Rolling Rock.
I wrote the following when Anheuser-Busch took over Rolling Rock:

The beer world suffered a great disturbance the other day when the doors of the Latrobe brewing company closed for the last time. The much beloved Rolling Rock beer which since 1939 has been pouring out of the glass lined tanks in Old Latrobe will now come from an Anheuser-Busch plant in Newark New Jersey. It just doesn’t sound as good does it? From Glass lined tanks in New Jersey? It sounds like it could be a chemical when you put it that way.
The full text of the label on Rolling Rock reads like poetry.
“Rolling Rock. From the Glass-lined tanks of old Latrobe we tender this premium beer for your enjoyment, as a tribute to your good taste. It comes from the mountain springs to you.”
And so another great brew changes, perhaps for the better or worse but certainly it will be different. Beer is a beverage that is long on tradition. We are lucky here in Northeast Pa to still have one of the oldest brews in the country being made right in town. Yuengling has been around since 1829 but it was only a few years later when the Stegmaier Brewing Company was founded in 1857. The Lion brewery has been brewing the original 1857 recipe for years and even won a gold medal for it in the 1994 Great American Beer Festival. Now I am not an expert beer drinker although I do have some experience in the field. I will however be glad to testify that 1857 is one of the best beers I have ever had the pleasure of drinking and it’s a product that we should be proud of. So why don’t more bars and beer stores carry it? Try asking for an 1857 at a fancy sit-down eating joint in our area and you will either be greeted with a blank stare or worse. Ask if they have 1857 on draft at your local tavern and chances are you will be told no.
So I don’t understand. You find Yuengling everywhere. It’s brewed in some place called Pottsville and it seems like everyone here in Northeast Pa can’t get enough of it. But the local brew? Not a trace. Why is it you can’t get any love in your hometown? By the way if Stegmaier isn’t to your liking the Lion brewery puts out Pocono lagers and ales, six different choices. There was a big deal made out of the fact that beer will be served in Kirby park when the Beach Boy comes to town. I am willing to bet that the beer being served won’t be the brew made less than five miles from the stage. Or then again I could be wrong.

This was published in the Weekender and broadcast on my radio show.

I received an immediate response from some local sales guy working at the time for Falcone Distributors which has also since been sold to someone else.

I don’t have the e-mail anymore but the gist was this:

“Comparing making beer to chemicals just shows how stupid and ignorant you are about beer making. And any way we toured the Latrobe brewery and we couldn’t find any fucking glass lined tanks! Maybe you should join us at a brewery to see how it’s really done.”

I took him up immediately on his offer but he never responded.

Now I have been in many breweries in my life and sampled a fair amount of the various brews of the world, but I don’t claim to be a connoisseur or an expert. I do know that a principal ingredient in all beer, ale or lager or pilsner or lambic or what have you is water. Chemical formula H2O.

Whut ever.

The Belgium In-Bev guys have made a lot of promises. They will still keep all the US Bud breweries open. They won’t change the name. But will it still be
“The great American Lager?” Only time will tell.

Here’s something else to think about while you enjoy your choice of beverage. Will we ever see THIS commercial again?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bye-Bye Bi-Lo

When you have a relationship with someone or something for fifteen years you tend to get attached. Consider a marriage or owning a car, something that is often not too different as it’s difficult to get either one to turn over when it’s cold. (rim-shot please!) After fifteen years of buying groceries in the same store having to change is a pain and a little sad.
The Bi-Lo store in Dallas, the last remaining one of the Penn Traffic stores in the area, turned off its automatic doors for the final time last Friday. As big as Penn Traffic was and at one time it owned 100’s of stores in five states it couldn’t make it work. The good news is that Gerrity’s the local chain with 9 stores in the area will take over and reopen the store with even more employees. “Mom” runs the show there. So there is a good chance that no one who worked at the Bi-lo will go without a job. The bad news is that if they worked there for fifteen years they have more than likely lost vacation time, seniority and other benefits. And the bad news for me is I no longer will have the comfort of knowing exactly where stuff is, making shopping a bigger pain than it is now.
A small thing in the big scheme of life to be sure. But unless you do the grocery shopping for your family on a regular basis (and I do) you can’t understand how much time and money you can save when you know the layout of a store and how they handle coupons and two for one specials and so on.
Plus if you shop at a regular time and day you get to know the workers. Ever have to wait at the deli for something? Not me. I had a standing order for my cold cuts and they were ready for me at the counter by the time I reached the deli. Again a small thing but….well, nice. I like a particular kind of cracker. I could reach my hand out and grab it without breaking stride.
I knew where to find everything and now I will have to learn it all over again.
Down the road there is the Weis Market. They are a pretty big chain with 157 stores in five states and they are making the Dallas store bigger and adding wine to the inventory. But it’s new and different. And the parking lot is way too small. As I left the Bi-lo for the last time Friday I saw that someone had written on the deli special blackboard “Hi Mom!” It seemed sad and hopeful at the same time. But then again I could be wrong.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Memory lane

My boss told me long ago that people in pain make the loudest noise. We were talking about the complaints after we had changed format on a radio station but it really does apply to almost any situation in life. Recently we made several changes on one of the radio stations that I am nominally in charge of. I notice I am less in charge when things are going right and more in charge when people have a problem. Right now it feels like I have a bull’s-eye painted on my back but it’s part of my job description I guess. The part where it says I will be a punching bag. For the purpose of this narrative the changes are not important. The reaction of the people in pain is what I want to focus on. Sitting at my desk I can almost tell by the way the phone rings that it’s another angry listener. I have tired of trying to reason with these folks. In spite of the fact that they say they want to know the reason for the change, they really don’t care. What they want to do is vent their spleen on me and anything I have to say is totally superfluous. So I have taken to listening without making any comment until they run down and ask if I am still there. I answer them with all the politeness I have left and they start in again. I draw the line at personal attacks. First of all although I agree with the change it wasn’t my idea. In fact the order for the upheaval came from the very highest level of management in the company so I had to laugh when one of the callers asked for the CEO’s name and phone number. I wonder how that conversation went? In my career in radio I have made many changes to the radio stations I have been entrusted with. Personalities have been hired and fired, music formats have been changed and all along the way I have had to deal with the vocal minority that doesn’t like the change. It seems that the rally cry is something along the lines of “it’s new and different. We don’t like it”. I love the we. Always the person complaining claims to be speaking for a great multitude of others who are like minded. I am tempted when I hear the we to ask if they have a frog in their pocket but I did that once and the angry caller took offense. So now I just sit and listen and wait until they run out of steam and then put the phone down and wait for the next one. It’s a great job, being the one with target on your back. Or then again I could be wrong.

Bathroom Manners

I. took a job quite a few years back at a radio station that will remain nameless for the purpose of this narrative. It was a station that was in probably the oldest facility I have ever worked at and the joint had only two bathrooms. The Ladies room was near the lobby and the Men’s room was all the way in the back, but near the sales offices. You know there are lots of things they don’t tell you when you start a job at any office but what I didn’t know was the sink in the Men’s room was routinely used to fill the coffee pot for the sales team, many of which has no business being in the Men’s room. If you get my drift. The protocol which I was not privy to (pun intended) was for female coffee makers to knock on the Men’s room door before entering. I was blissfully unaware of this while doing my business at the urinal when I heard a knock at the door. Not thinking and done but not buttoned up I turned towards the door and showed my shortcomings to a very flustered sales girl. My next stop was the General Mangers office where I opened the conversation with “I just exposed my self to a sales girl. Am I fired?” We all had a good laugh. But the other day was not nearly as funny. I was done with my workout and stumbling to the locker room. Went in and passed by the couple in the sink area on my way to the shower. Wait a minute. A couple in the Men’s locker room. Man and woman. And in an embrace. That seemed, well, wrong. I walked back over to confirm what I saw and was greeted with cold stares. As though I was intruding. I really didn’t know what to say so I said nothing.
It’s worth noting here that that the guy part of this little incident was the same one who unplugged my treadmill while I was going full tilt and was to put it mildly, less than apologetic. So we already sort of knew each other. I went back the shower area and sat down to consider my options. I could wait. I could continue my routine. I could suggest to them that they get a room.
In the end they solved the problem for me by leaving. Maybe they went in the ladies room. Some countries have unisex bathrooms. I never want to go there. Or then again I could be wrong

Baseball been Berry good to me!

It’s been while since I have been up to the ball game at PNC Field. How long? The last time I was inside the joint was called the Lackawanna Multi-Purpose stadium.
Or to put it another way: Last time I sat in the cheap seats I overheard a young boy say “Daddy! The grump TOUCHED me!” So now it’s “PNC Field” and the Red Barons are the dead Barons and the Yankees rule the roost. A lot of peanuts, popcorn and crackerjacks have passed through the 10,310 seats at the old Ball Game. Although it really isn’t as old as all that. 19 years old this past April to be exact. I have to say it looks great. I watched nine innings of pretty good baseball and half an hour or so of great fireworks on July Fourth and I felt as American as apple pie which is the only thing I didn’t eat. Somehow a visit to a ballgame, any ball game is not complete without a “Haw Dawg.” So I had two. Along with nachos and a big pretzel (seven bucks!) But the memories that night brought back. Like the game that Kent Westling the ex-announcer called out “One ball on John Kruc” and he was right in more ways than one. Looking at the fancy video scoreboard with every statistic you could ever want including the speed of the pitch I remembered the old scoreboard which I believe was three guys with big post it notes and magic markers. But now of course everything is sponsored so it’s big and shiny and new. Freddie the M.C. (Baseball games now have an M.C. ?) runs around and directs between inning fun and games usually involving kids and American flags, a somewhat different endeavor than one of his previous gigs at the Diamond club. Something that involved whipped cream and…well I was never actually there so I can’t say much more. Back to baseball. My buddy had great seats on the third baseline, close enough so the threat of a line drive right between the eyes was a distinct possibility. Watching one pop fly soar right above our heads his girlfriend shouted “Jeepers Cats” which I think about sums it up. How many other spectator sports promise on the ticket that you may be hurt? I was nearly hurt myself when I dragged out all my old baseball jokes. I think the one about the young couple in the stands was the best one: He kisses her on the strikes and she kisses him on the….
So it’s one two three strikes and you’re OUT at the old ball game.
By the way the Yankees lost to the Syracuse Chiefs 8-5.
And I still don’t understand that play at third base.
Or then again I could be wrong.