Monday, June 29, 2015

Amazing Saturday Part 2 - On Tribal Land & The Food

After the Huey Lewis show, thanking the good Lord for holding the rain back, along with my friend Cindy, we made it to the car unrained upon and headed south to Mohegan Sun to see Cassadee Pope in concert. What made that more special, our good buddy Steve plays guitar for Cassadee Pope and it's always fun to cheer on a friend, plus to get some visit time with him while he is touring.
I've met Cassadee Pope on three occasions now, she's very sweet and down to earth and it's very obvious to me that she is working very hard. She is earning all of her success and I wish her continued success. My buddy Steve is not only a pro and a great player, he is a great friend and always takes the time to really be present with any of us who have the chance to visit with him when he is on tour. I am so proud of all of the success he has had and so happy he gets to do something he loves.


Also at the show was Steve's dad and sister, it was lots of fun to spend time with them as well. We had a little face time with Cassadee. Here, I am holding a copy of the setlist, which she later autographed to my niece.

We took a tour of the backstage area at The Wolf Den in Mohegan Sun. I had been there before but it was fun to go back, the walls are adorned with scribblings and signatures of artists who have played there before. What was amazing is that just before going downstairs, Steve and his sister told a story about The Smithereens and momensts after getting downstairs, there is was, I spotted The Smithereens on the wall!

Later, along with members of the band and their guests and some of the crew, we went to Frank Pepe's pizzeria.


KILLER PIZZA!!! Absolutely amazing food and great fun hanging out with everyone.

After pizza, another old friend and his wife were upstairs at a club. Ken used to play with Steve in a local Boston band; we went up to spend some time with them - good catching up!

Around 1 am, I thought it was best to make the 75-90 minute trek home, it was super dark and very rainy, so the drive took longer but by 2:30am, I was in my house and took a few moments to just reflect on the long but wonderful day. I also stood awake to ensure my friend Cindy made it home, aside from it being late she had some car issues earlier in the day.

Amazing Saturday Part 1 - The Food and The News

This was going to be a very long day, so it had to start out with some solid fortification...I turned to one of the most reliable sources I know, "The Carve", at the Ashland Farmer's Market.

Everything about The Carve is all anyone could ever ask for: Great people, caring service and amazing food prepared with care and love.

I have to admit, it was nice to get the rock star treatment as well, made me feel really special! I introduced my friend Cindy to the wonders of The Carve - she opted for the breakfast sandwich while I went with the Asian meatball sub; we both had some iced coffee from another vendor called "Acoustic Java".

Saturday was about two stops on the #summerofconcerts tour: The first of those stops was at Indian Ranch, located on Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg (I actually know how to pronounce this) in Webster, MA. The concert, "Huey Lewis & The News" with opener "Jaime Kent".

I never heard of Jaime Kent until I saw him and I have to say, he was terrific. Great performer, great stage presence and personality and great songs and music.

Huey Lewis and the New have been around for decades, had many hits in the 80's and early 90's and I have always been a fan but had never had the chance to see them until now,

Huey's voice is not quite there anymore but he does still have some great performance chops, great personality, "cool" factor, and a good band and that definitely went a long way in entertaining me and the crown on hand in this very intimate outdoor venue.

The setlist (not yet published on setlist.fm) included many favorites and a few newer selections.The crowd was energetic and the band fed of that energy and delivered.

This was a good time!!!

BTW, while the ticket stub indicates no cost, I bought them from a dude on craigslist who got them in some promotion, I got them for $25 each, a good deal for sure!

When the concert ended, it was time to head to Connecticut...talk to you about that in part 2.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Until

Yesterday, Saturday, 6/27, was an awesome day! I got home at around 2:30 am this morning and since then has not all been pleasant.

I look forward to soon writing about Saturday but in the meantime, I could use a few good thoughts...nothing tragic, just something slightly undefined.

Tomorrow it's another stop on the #summerofconcerts tour, I need to rest up.

Friday, June 26, 2015

My MacGyver Moment

At the Kid Rock concert last night, I registered at the Arbella Insurance table as a designated driver ans was awarded with free soft drinks for the evening. I had a seltzer and my kid had a Pepsi. We were sitting down and as time went on, she was getting grossed out that bugs kept trying to get some of her Pepsi.

When it came time to get a refill, I had a brilliant idea. The cups were individually wrapped, but had no lids. I used the wrapping to cover the cup with the Pepsi then poked a straw through it...no only my daughter but our neighbors in the seats were all impressed.



Summer of Concerts Rolls on: Kid Rock with Special Guest, Foreigner (Part 2)


My name is Kiiiiiiid....

What most folks think of as Kid Rock's first album, the one that broke him through to the mainstream, was actually his fourth album, "Devil Without a Cause".

A quarter century into his career, Kid Rock is touring in support of his 10th studio release and for the second summer in a row, using corporate sponsorship to subsidize the normally expensive tickets costs. Most tickets for these shows are $20 and there are a number of concession specials as well.

Way more important than all of that, Kid Rock proved to me that he is as good a live performer as anyone I have ever seen. Kid Rock's music and performance style are fearless, boundless and electric.

This show proved that a concert isn't always about a band trying to recreate a recording, but reinventing and reinterpreting the music and creating a performance that is more than just a collection of songs.

Here is the setlist as reported on Setlist.fm:

Intro: Don't Stop Believing
First Kiss
Good Times, Cheap Wine
You Never Met A Mutherfucker
American Bad Ass
Devil Without a Cause
Wasting Time
God Bless Saturday
Care
Fist of Rage
Blue Jeans and a Rosary
So Hott
Jesus and Bocephus
Somebody's Gotta Feel This
Midnight Train to Memphis
All Summer Long
Johnny Cash
Cowboy
Picture
3 Sheets to the Wind
DJ Bobby Shazam
Cat Scratch Fever (Ted Nugent cover)
Rock N Roll Jesus
Only God Knows Why
Born Free

Encore: Bawitdaba

I am particularly jazzed about hearing "Only God Knows Why" live, it was a great reinterpretation of a really great song. While we were waiting for the encore, I kept telling my daughter, "I really wanna hear Bawitdaba, is is possible he'll do it for an encore?" BOOM! He did...

In anticipation of this show, I knew it would be good, I had no idea just how good. Between the first band, Foreigner and Kid Rock, this was a show for the ages, one of the best shows I have ever seen.

Kid Rock is one BADASS performer!

Summer of Concerts Rolls on: Kid Rock with Special Guest, Foreigner (Part 1)


This one has been on the books for a while and I was really looking forward to it. My daughter was with me for this one.

I'd love to praise the opening, opening at-they only announced their name once and it wasn't clear. However, they were really terrific and I would love to support them; I'll need to dig around.

Foreigner has been around since the late 1970's, in fact, at one time, they were arguably bigger than Kid Rock at his biggest. I say this as praise for Kid Rock for allowing a legendary band not only to open for him, but gave them free run to really put on a show and even have an encore - that's quite a great thing to do.

Foreigner, though I believe Mick Jones may be the only original member (I'd have to look into that for sure), Lou Gramm, the original (and remarkable) vocalist has been out for some time, current singer Kelly Hanson is nothing short of spectacular. Foreigner really crushed it and the crowd ate up every bit of it. During he encore, the smash hit "I Wanna Know What Love Is", the band brought out a choir made up of locals from the area surrounding the venue.

Here is the setlist Foreigner played last night:

Double Vision
Head Games
Cold as Ice
Dirty White Boy
Feels Like the First Time
Urgent
Juke Box Hero

Encore:
I Want to Know What Love Is
Hot Blooded

I need to write a separate post later about Kid Rock, this one is not big enough for how amazed I still am at what he did.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

In My Ears 2015 Vol. 9

Here's the latest of the records that I have been filling my head with (via my ears):

Halesstorm - Halestorm
Halestorm - The Strange Case of...
I somehow missed them, heard of them a few months back on "That Metal Show" and hit up the library for some CD's. I really dig their style ans Lizzy's vocals and guitar lead a sound that somehow manages to hearken to the classic hard rock (and even heavy metal) sounds that are indelibly inked into our sonic brains but also captures the essence of modern day music across multiple genres.

Tom Waits - Small Change
Tom Waits - Mule Variations
Tom Waits - Closing Time
Tom Waits - Bad As Me
Been a fan of Waits for a long time, I just love him so much - such a unique recording artist. The little revisit to some of his material was triggered by listening to an interview on a podcast with some actor who quoted the last verse of the song "Take it With Me" form Mule variations. "Closing Time" is easily one of my favortie albums by anyone of all time.

Steel Magnolia - Steel Magnolia
With the resurgence of Meghan Linsey as the runner up on the most recent season of "The Voice", I decided to go back and listen to the record she made with her then music collaborator/love interest. A good solid country-pop record that respects the roots of the country genre while still holding pace with a contemporary mind set.

Jo Dee Messina - Delicious Surprise
I was chatting to someone about seeing Jo Dee Messina (a local girl, from Holliston, MA) in concert sometime back and I randomly selected one of her albums to revisit. I really like Messina's work, I just wish she would be releasing more of it.

Keb' Mo' - Keep it Simple
Keep it Simple is a good way to describe his music. A blues man with something really special and captivating; I saw him live when he opened for Bonnie Raitt about a decade or so ago and really fell in love with his style back them.

Genesis - From Genesis to Revelation
Genesis - A Trick of the Tail
Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
A while back on this blog I mentioned that some guy on Craigslist was giving away a bunch of Genesis CD's...I was the one wo got them and have decided to revisit their catalog. Some of their older music was unfamiliar - the really older and "prog-er" stuff in particular. I was turned on to "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" record back when I worked at Titus Oaks in the eighties (about a decade after it's actual release) and I have always loved that record.



Rush in Concert: R40


I've listened to the music of the band Rush for almost as longs as they've been releasing music but somehow, have never seen them in concert. Last night, at The Garden, in Boston, I made sure that I don't have to live with the possible regret of never seeing them live as the #summerofconcerts rocks on.

The tour is being referred to as R40, a celebration of 40+ years of Rush making music, recording and performing together. I think the concert was a wonderful retrospective of their career and with the addition of some really great video clips featuring cartoon versions of them (the nose on Geddy was priceless) and some live action comedic shorts (one featuring fellow Canadian Eugene Levy) - the show was really fantastic, super entertaining and a reminder (not that anyone should need one) of just how great Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neal Peart are as musicians.

I grabbed a setlist from the site setlist.fm:

Set 1:
The World Is...The World Is
 1. The Anarchist
 2.The Wreckers
 3. Headlong Flight (with "Drumbastica" mini drum solo)
 4. Far Cry
 5. The Main Monkey Business
 6. How It Is
 7. Animate
 8. Roll the Bones
 9. Between the Wheels
10.  Subdivisions

Set 2:
No Country for Old Hens
11. Tom Sawyer
12. The Camera Eye
13. The Spirit of Radio
14. Jacob's Ladder
15. Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres Part I: Prelude
16. Cygnus X-1 (The Voyage Part 1 & 3 with drum solo)
17. Closer to the Heart
18. Xanadu
19. 2112 Part I: Overture
20. 2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx
21. 2112 Part IV: Presentation
22. 2112 Part VII: Grand Finale

Encore:
Mel's Rock Pile starring Eugene Levy
23. Lakeside Park
24. Anthem
25. What You're Doing
26. Working Man (with 'Garden Road' snippet)
Exit Stage Left

I have to say, it has to be at least five years since I listened to an entire Rush record from start to finish, no good excuse, but a fact. I think soon I may need to revisit the catalog.

Happy 11th Birthday From a Whisper to a Scream

A short time more than 11 years ago today I was sitting at a picnic table at Gerard Farms in Framingham, MA having lunch with my friend Jill, her mom, my friend Linda, and I don't recall if anyone else was there. Jill talked about blogging and her blog...then I decided to start this blog.

It's crazy how much had taken place in the last 11 years, how the blogging community has all but disappeared (though I am so happy to have remained in contact with many of the people that I met through this medium).

I still love this place, I love the idea of just saying whatever it is I want, even if sometimes it's just gibberish. I love that there are folks that still come by and read this blog, from all over the world (even if some of them end up here accidentally).

The number one song when I wrote the first post on this blog was "The Reason" by Hoobastank."Burn" by Usher would give that song a run for it's money very shortly after.

Gas prices had recently gone over the $2/per gallon mark on average across the nation.

I still had a few months before turning 40 and considerably less gray hair on 6/24/2004.

Thank You!

I know it's been a long time since there were regular commenters here, but I know you are reading from the stats. All I really know how to do here is to be me, and that is not always perfect. I've learned a lot from doing this though and I really am truly grateful to all who've stopped by over the years and all who've offered feedback in any form.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rush and Stuff

I've never seen the band Rush in concert...tonight, that changes. While initially, I wasn't planning to go, my friend Frank's enthusiasm coupled with the fact that they may not tour again, I went ahead and got some tickets and am going to see them with my friend Frank.

This is a busy next 7 days in the #summerofconcerts: Rush tonight, Kid Rock/Foreigner on Thursday night, Huey Lewis & The News on Saturday afternoon, Cassadee Pope on Saturday night and Barenaked Ladies/Violent Femmes/Colin Hay next Monday night.

I am curious to see how I hold up after all this action - I used to pull stuff off like this back in the day but it's very different now, even being in reasonably decent shape (though still carrying around that extra 20 I've been trying to lose).


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dubsmash: The first 10

If you aren't yet familiar with Dubsmash,it's a cell phone app with a collection of clips from various sources (such as movies, songs, etc.) You play the clip and it video records you lip syncing it.

It's silly, but totally addictive and lots of fun,

The playlist below features my first 10 dubs: enjoy!

 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Food Day

Week two of the Ashland Farmer's Market, I had to be there, especially after missing the opening last week. I made a quick loop around the vendors before stopping at "The Carve", my favorite food stop. I had the killer breakfast sandwich along with an order of savory corn beignets (served with a pineapple salsa); a great start to the day!

I would have stuck around and had lunch at the carve as well, they were serving delicious smoked ribs and tacos, but, I had planned for weeks to attend a food truck festival in Worcester. I took off on my way making an ATM stop along the way and arrived at Elm Park about 20 minutes before general admission entry.

As noon struck, we were allowed through the gates and as most drifted right to the row of food trucks, I made a quick stop at the radio station tent and noticed they were giving away tickets to see Barenaked Ladies in a drawing, so I filled out a ticket and took the stroll to see what the food trucks had to offer.

At first Iw as a bit bummed that I had to pay a $5 entry fee to go into a public park simply for the privilege of purchasing food from any one of about a dozen or so food trucks. I knew I had to let that go quick, so I did, and enjoyed the people watching, in addition to some of the creativity of the food truck owners.

My favorite of all the food trucks, in terms of pure creativity, was "The Dogfather". Not only did they use the font and overall motif of the movie The Godfather, but the names of all of the items on the menu also followed that motif.

I rewarded my appreciation of their creativity by making them my first food purchase, the #5, called "The Corleone", a hot dog with their secret sauce and potato sticks (yep, those potato sticks).

There was a seafood truck with a raw bar, and I was very tempted (can't get me enough of that stuff), but I thought that it might be a bit risky getting that stuff at a food truck so I opted to pass. I eventually settled on getting a Lamb Kebab as my second (and what ended up being my final) food item (this was about 30-45 minutes after the hot dog). The kebab had a nice flavor but the lamb was overcooked and not as appealing as it should have been.

I really enjoyed some of the dogs, there was a 160 pound St. Bernard in attendance that pretty much got more attention than anyone or anything else there.

After making another loop about the park and chatting with passersby, I stopped over at the radio station tent to ask when they would be drawing for the tickets and if being present was required. The kids said, "about 1:30, then each hour after (they had 5 pairs to give away), but you had to be there if your name was called or forfeit the win. I knew I wan't sticking around for much longer but with only about 20 minutes for the first drawing, I felt I had to stick around.

The time comes, the drawing begins, they reach in for the first name and call it out, it's not me, but the winner was nowhere to be found and they were going to pick again. The girl picking stuck her hand in the box and reached deep down, pulls out a ticket and hands it to the guy. Mic goes to mouth and he reads the name...it's ME!!! I jump and do a fist pump while yelling "YES!" I went over and gave the girl who picked it a great big hug and got my tickets.

At this point, it could not have gotten any better, so I made my way to my car and headed for home.

Of course I called my daughter to let her know that in fact we had one more stop on our #summerofconcerts tour.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Oopsie-Pics Missing

I believe I may have inadvertently deleted some pictures from a few old blog posts by ignoring some of the messages in the new Google photos app.

Oh well, serves me right for not reading.

The moral of the story; read, it's fundamental!

My Top 100 Comedians List - With Fixes

I just couldn't let Iliza and Alonzo remain off the list, so I made the necessary changes:

I'm going to try to let this sit, and maybe, revisit in a year.

  1. George Carlin 
  2. Robert Schimmel 
  3. Jerry Seinfeld 
  4. Rodney Dangerfield 
  5. Eddie Murphy 
  6. Woody Allen 
  7. Steven Wright 
  8. Marc Maron 
  9. Louis CK 
  10. Dave Attell 
  11. Nick Dipaolo 
  12. Jim Gaffigan 
  13. Jim Jeffries 
  14. Steve Martin 
  15. Jackie Mason 
  16. Chris Rock 
  17. Don Rickles
  18. Pat Cooper 
  19. Ellen DeGeneres 
  20. David Brenner 
  21. Sam Kinison 
  22. Gilbert Gottfried 
  23. Denis Leary 
  24. Bobby Slayton 
  25. Dom Irrera 
  26. Colin Quinn 
  27. Robin Williams 
  28. Larry Miller 
  29. Ron White 
  30. Lewis Black 
  31. Andy Kaufman 
  32. Kevin Meaney 
  33. Kevin James 
  34. Jeff Foxworthy 
  35. Mitch Hedberg 
  36. Joan Rivers 
  37. Redd Foxx 
  38. Jay Leno 
  39. Garry Shandling 
  40. Ray Romano 
  41. Norm MacDonald 
  42. Jim Breuer 
  43. Amy Schumer
  44.  Christopher Titus
  45.  Brian Regan 
  46. Sebastian Maniscalco 
  47. Dennis Wolfberg 
  48. Artie Lange 
  49. Andrew 'Dice' Clay
  50. Jim Florentine 
  51. Greg Fitzsimmons 
  52. Alonzo Bodden 
  53. Doug Stanhope 
  54. Iliza Shlesinger 
  55. Nick Swardson 
  56. Maria Bamford 
  57. Jim Carrey 
  58. Dennis Miller 
  59. Robert Klein 
  60. Anthony Jeselnik 
  61. Billy Crystal 
  62. Howie Mandel 
  63. Richard Lewis 
  64. Tim Allen 
  65. Richard Jeni 
  66. Paula Poundstone 
  67. Wanda Sykes 
  68. Brett Butler 
  69. Dana Carvey 
  70. Paul Reiser 
  71. Drew Carey 
  72. Kevin Pollak 
  73. Shelley Berman 
  74. Bill Cosby 
  75. Richard Pryor 
  76. Bernie Mac 
  77. Bobcat Goldthwait 
  78. Billy Connolly 
  79. Eddie Izzard 
  80. Jay Mohr 
  81. Bobby Collins 
  82. Roseanne Barr 
  83. Jon Stewart 
  84. Bill Maher 
  85. Cedric the Entertainer 
  86. Alan King 
  87. Louie Anderson 
  88. David Cross 
  89. Phyllis Diller 
  90. Richard Belzer 
  91. Bob Newhart 
  92. Albert Brooks 
  93. George Wallace 
  94. Paul Rodriguez 
  95. Sinbad 
  96. DL Hughley 
  97. Eddie Griffin 
  98. Martin Lawrence 
  99. Janeane Garofalo 
  100. Bill Hicks

The Top 100 Comedians List - My Take

After going through that list of comedians from Comedy Central, I factored in a number of things to create my own top 100 list. First, was the fact that the list I brought here was one they published a decade or so a go. A lot had changed in the last decade, some newer comics that weren't around yet have made a pretty big impact and some others that were on the list have elevated themselves to new heights.

There were a few folks on that list that as you know, I just didn't thing belonged on a list of stand-up comedians. I removed a number of others regardless of placement simply in terms of relevance in the moment and overall impact in comparison to those whom I have replaced them with; others, simply got bumped off the list as they would not fit in for me with the top 100.

In the end, I went back and forth on the ordering, and questioning whether or not I may have missed someone else. The fact is, I am certain I missed someone worthy of this list. I am certain that arguments can be made, even from me, about some of the ordering but I do think it's close enough to represent how I feel in this moment those 100 comics should be ordered.

If I dig hard enough, there are others who I could easily replace. I am not and have never really been a Bill Hicks fan - I know if I thought a bit harder, I could find someone to replace him on this list for me. That said, I do think Hicks had an edge about hit that warrants his place, despite how low on that list I placed him and how I know at least one of you will think I am insane for having him that far down and beneath some of the other names. My answer, this is my list.

There are some names here who haven't performed stand up in a very long time, so long that some might not even consider them worthy of being here. However, they are here because the work they did had enough of an impact on me and made me laugh (even to this day) that they deserve to be on my list.

I had no idea how hard ordering and arranging this list would be. If I was the type who refused to publish something until I really felt it was done or perfect, I would never end up publishing the list but since I am not, here it is. Have at it, comment, debate, discuss, enjoy, but most of all...LAUGH!

  1. George Carlin
  2. Robert Schimmel
  3. Jerry Seinfeld
  4. Rodney Dangerfield
  5. Eddie Murphy
  6. Woody Allen
  7. Steven Wright
  8. Marc Maron
  9. Louis CK
  10. Dave Attell
  11. Nick Dipaolo
  12. Jim Gaffigan
  13. Jim Jeffries
  14. Steve Martin
  15. Jackie Mason
  16. Chris Rock
  17. Don Rickles
  18. Pat Cooper
  19. Ellen DeGeneres
  20. David Brenner
  21. Sam Kinison
  22. Gilbert Gottfried
  23. Denis Leary
  24. Bobby Slayton
  25. Dom Irrera
  26. Colin Quinn
  27. Robin Williams
  28. Larry Miller
  29. Ron White
  30. Lewis Black
  31. Andy Kaufman
  32. Kevin Meaney
  33. Kevin James
  34. Jeff Foxworthy
  35. Mitch Hedberg
  36. Joan Rivers
  37. Redd Foxx
  38. Jay Leno
  39. Garry Shandling
  40. Ray Romano
  41. Norm MacDonald
  42. Jim Breuer
  43. Amy Schumer
  44. Christopher Titus
  45. Brian Regan
  46. Sebastian Maniscalco
  47. Dennis Wolfberg
  48. Artie Lange
  49. Andrew 'Dice' Clay
  50. Jim Florentine
  51. Greg Fitzsimmons
  52. Doug Stanhope
  53. Nick Swardson
  54. Maria Bamford
  55. Jim Carrey
  56. Dennis Miller
  57. Robert Klein
  58. Anthony Jeselnik
  59. Billy Crystal
  60. Howie Mandel
  61. Richard Lewis
  62. Tim Allen
  63. Richard Jeni
  64. Paula Poundstone
  65. Wanda Sykes
  66. Brett Butler
  67. Dana Carvey
  68. Paul Reiser
  69. Drew Carey
  70. Kevin Pollak
  71. Shelley Berman
  72. Bill Cosby
  73. Richard Pryor
  74. Bernie Mac
  75. Bobcat Goldthwait
  76. Billy Connolly
  77. Eddie Izzard
  78. Jay Mohr
  79. Bobby Collins
  80. Roseanne Barr
  81. Jon Stewart
  82. Bill Maher
  83. Cedric the Entertainer
  84. Alan King
  85. Louie Anderson
  86. David Cross
  87. Phyllis Diller
  88. Richard Belzer
  89. Bob Hope
  90. Bob Newhart
  91. Albert Brooks
  92. George Wallace
  93. Paul Rodriguez
  94. Sinbad
  95. DL Hughley
  96. Sandra Bernhard
  97. Eddie Griffin
  98. Martin Lawrence
  99. Janeane Garofalo
  100. Bill Hicks
UPDATE: Less than 30 minutes after hitting PUBLISH on this post I get an email with an early bird code for tickets to Iliza Shlesinger and right off the bat, there's one that belongs on this list.

UPDATE 2: A couple of hours later, I remember another name that really belongs here on this list, Alonzo Bodden

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Guest Post: Who Picks Up the Tab at the Restaurant?

Written by Miriam Cross, this appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, July 2015

Dining out should be an opportunity to relax with friends, impress a client or bond with someone special, not fret over the protocol for paying and tipping. Here’s how to handle three awkward situations.

When I try to pay the check, I get an argument. If you have formally invited someone to join you for a meal (for example, “I want to take you out to celebrate”), you’re the host—be prepared to pay. But if your guest insists on splitting the tab, accept the offer rather than argue.

When you’re determined to treat someone for a special occasion, do some advance planning: Choose a restaurant you know well, arrive early and slip the waiter your credit card with instructions to charge the meal and gratuity to the card.

As the invitee, it doesn’t hurt to offer (sincerely) to share the bill; most hosts appreciate the gesture, even if they plan to pay. If you get no for an answer, simply thank your host and say the meal is on you next time. Don’t spoil a pleasant occasion by bickering over the bill.

For occasions such as a large birthday dinner at a restaurant that you’re not planning to host, let guests know ahead of time that you’re putting together a pay-your-own-way type of event, says Daniel Post Senning, spokesman for the Emily Post Institute. Keep your tone casual when spreading the word.

The group wants to split the bill evenly, but my meal costs less. Light eaters or sparing drinkers may resent having to subsidize their tablemates’ lobster entrees or bottles of wine. If you’re out with a regular group of friends and suspect you’ll end up feeling stiffed, request a separate check from your server—but do so when he or she is taking your order, says etiquette expert Diane Gottsman. (Volunteer an explanation to your friends if you like, such as “I’m just having a salad tonight” or “I’m sticking with water this time.”) Once everyone is throwing their credit cards down for the waiter to charge equally, you’ve missed the chance to bow out gracefully.

In other situations—especially business contexts—avoid the nickel-and-diming. “You run the risk of looking cheap,” says Gottsman. Instead, be prepared to fork over your equal share and enjoy the group experience.

I noticed my host left a terrible tip. Much as you might like to add to the tip yourself, “that’s making a comment on the generosity of your host,” says Post Senning. He advises dropping the issue altogether. If your conscience won’t let you shortchange the waiter by proxy, however, walk out with your host and say good-bye, then discreetly return to make up the difference, advises Gottsman.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I Doctor

Eye went to the I doctor today! I know, you're a little bugged out at what I did there :) Seriously, for some reason I really overshot the one year...by an extra year and a half.

There was a crazy thing going on with my right eye, every time I had to read something on the chart through my right eye, I was seeing double/ghosting (the left eye was fine).

I like this eye doctor a ot because she is really thorough; she said everything was fine and there was no need to be alarmed.

I had my pupils dilated, which always makes for an interesting couple of hours afterward! No need to change glasses, "please remember to see me in a year this time!"

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Alley Gang: Where it All Began

The picture is a view from the "big hill" on the Avenue T side. The left side of this picture are the row houses along East 28th street between Avenue T & U (that's where I grew up, at address 2020); the right side of this picture are the row of houses along East 27th street.

Life itself began here for me, but it's also where I met the first group of people I hung out with.

A few houses away were the "Whites", Margie, Eddie and their 4 daughters who covered a lot of the ground as far as neighborhood crushes went (my very first crush was the White that I went to school with).

Almost directly across from my house in the alley was the Loperina house, where Ernie and Richie (geeky) lived. Those two covered a lot of ground on the crush circuit for the girls.

The "middle alley" featured a friend, later more friends, and a nemesis. The nemesis was Phyllis...just a nut job. The first friend was Dan. Dan is the closest I'll ever have to a second brother and was a significant inspiration on the importance of music in my life. Dan later moved out of that house and while he remained in the neighborhood, the Bernowitz/Stutman gang moved in and quickly became a part of the gang.

I could go on for paragraphs dropping names, there are so many that both lived in the confines of the two block and others that came from nearby.

Some of\ the activities/events we all shared growing up together:

The block parties: we close off the street, set up picnic tables and everyone just has an entire block long party together.

That alley you see in that picture, it was long and narrow and could not be less practical for just about any sports you can think of; that didn't stop us - name a sport, it was played in that alley.

The fireworks: we lit that place up on the fourth of July!

The beach: I don't recall the year other than it was the 1970's and the summer time and we would all gather by the Loperina's garbage pails early in the morning, wall to Ocean avenue and Avenue U and grab the B49 to Manhattan Beach...pretty much every day.

The Muscular Dystrophy Carnivals: The White's were philanthropic from an early age - they held these very elaborate carnivals to raise money and awareness for the MDA.

The brown paper sack of sunflower seeds and a little bottle of RC cola was a popular thing to kick around with in that alley.

Wiffle Ball: we even had leagues, stats, and two main fields (the middle alley and the Horowitz's yard).

As life takes us all in different directions, people came in an out of the neighborhood, and in and out of "the gang". I found myself drifting out somewhat once I began high school for a number of reasons: I went kind of out of the way to high school and it just made it a bit trickier to hang out regularly in the crowd. As I got into my teens, I was really awkward and had no self-esteem, I felt so out of my league, even among the people I was life long friends with. Also, my folks were a bit on the strict side and I wasn't really allowed to go out as much, but I was still around at least a little until I started college. Once college began, my whole scheduled changed and I met a lot of new people and I was all over the place. The alley gang was always where I began, was always in my heart, but I was just in another place during those years.

I feel so privileged to have had the experiences I did in that alley and in that neighborhood but mostly, to have had all those wonderful people in my life, All these years later, I write this as a 50 year old man and I am even prouder that so many of those people are still in my life. Like I said earlier, life has it's own path for everyone, we drift apart and float back in, but the bonds that were formed in those early years, the ones that formed who I am today, they all came from those people.

I went on the meet so many more amazing people, another very special group of people are a group I've lovingly referred to as "the reunion gang' and while it's less frequent than it once was, we all still keep in touch as well - they too are all so much a part of my life.

This past Saturday, The Alley Gang got together, some of us did at least. It's amazing how you can together and start talking and all of a sudden, decades of memories come pouring back. I have always cherished maintaining these connections and I love that we can all find the time to be together every so often;

I feel like I am getting less coherent as I get more emotional - so perhaps I will wrap up and just express my gratitude, my joy and my love for all of my friends.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

R.I.P. "the American Dream" Dusty Rhodes

This is overdue, but necessary. Talk about a larger than life guy, talk about an iconic figure in the wrestling business, "The American ream" Dusty Rhodes died this past Thursday at the age of 69.

If you aren't or wren't ever a wrestling fan, the loss of Rhodes could never really be understood. To those of us who've watched him, especially those of use who've seen much of his career, you know what he meant to that industry.

Even dreams must die sometimes I guess, rest in peace dream.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Just Some Chit

Me and my kid did a little dinner thing at Applebee's...that's right! We had fun!

Started tripping to reorder the comedians list today, harder and way more time consuming than I thought it would be - you'll see it soon.

Very excited to be visiting with a lot of old friends tomorrow (not looking forward to the drive, but it'll be worth it).

Watched a short doc on the making of the new James Taylor record, pretty cool.

Finished season 4 of Parks and Recreation yesterday, funny stuff!

I am, I can't eat onions anymore because suddenly they give me heartburn years old.

Hee Dee Dee!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The 100 Comedians List - Sixth Look

Here the last of the list, the top 15. Soon, I will post my reordering of this list.

15. David Letterman - Hasn't been a stand up comedian on about 35 years. Funny guy, but really doesn't belong on this list.

14. Bob Newhart - Not a fan of his stand up, it doesn't completely suck, but it's very long winded and not always captivating (or funny). It just sometimes takes way to long to get to the laugh, more time than it's often worth.

13. Robin Williams - Early stand up was brilliant, later was okay. Brilliant mind, thinks faster than he can talk...way better live in a club setting than on TV.

12. Jerry Seinfeld - First stand up comic I ever saw perform live, Love him!

11. Johnny Carson - Not a stand up comic and never was. Marginally funny and over rated. that said, I loved watching his show when I was allowed to.

10. Eddie Murphy - Delirious and Raw are as good as any 2 hour sets ever performed. In fact, they are so good, they are enough to keep Murphy on this list as a stand up when he really hasn't done all that much since RAW which came out in 1987.

9. Roseanne Barr - Eh.

8. Bill Cosby - While I think he's terribly overrated as a comedian, I have laughed hard a a lot of his older material.

7. Rodney Dangerfield - Knew how to do his character and his material. Much more of a brilliant performer than comic but oh, so funny.

6. Steve Martin - Some of his earlier bits were gut busting funny, I had many of his comedy albums, listened to them over and over and laughed harder each time.

5. Chris Rock - One of the funniest.

4. Woody Allen - Only have minimal knowledge of his stand up (despite owning his three books that made up most of his material). I always loved his affect.

3. Lenny Bruce - Never got why people thought he was funny...not sure I ever heard anything he did that made me laugh.

2. George Carlin - Spoiler alert, in my opinion, the best that ever lived...by far.

1. Richard Pryor - Extremely over rated...just okay.